From del­uge to Lord Ayyappa, LDF staves off Op­po­si­tion

If the floods united the state to fight na­ture’s fury, the right of women’s en­try into Sabari­mala has di­vided the state, both to the ad­van­tage of the rul­ing LDF and CPM.

The Sunday Guardian - - Covert -

If in Au­gust it was the del­uge that helped the Left Front gov­ern­ment in Ker­ala weather all po­lit­i­cal storms, now it is Lord Ayyappa who has come to the res­cue of Chief Min­is­ter Pi­narayi Vi­jayan and the CPM. Oth­er­wise, how can one ex­plain the hap­pen­ings in the south­ern state be­fore the sky opened up three months back and at present? If the floods united the state to fight na­ture’s fury, the right of young women’s en­try into the Sabari­mala shrine as per a Supreme Court di­rec­tive has di­vided the state, both to the ad­van­tage of the rul­ing LDF and the CPM. All con­tentious is­sues such as po­lit­i­cal mur­ders, po­lice atroc­i­ties and even the farm­ers’ strug­gle in Kan­nur were given a go-by in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the floods. The Op­po­si­tion, that used to de­pict Vi­jayan as an au­to­crat, were singing paeans for the CM and his ef­forts in re­build­ing a new Ker­ala. Then, of course, who­ever dared to ques­tion Vi­jayan or the gov­ern­ment’s mo­tives were branded as those against the de­vel­op­ment of the state. So ef­fec­tive was the weapon that even BJP, which has mas­tered the art at the Cen­tre, dared not ques­tion the LDF. The less said about the Con­gress the bet­ter. Even a mat­ter such as grave hu­man er­ror in man­ag­ing the dams that added to the plight of thou­sands was for­got­ten. So also the fail­ure of the gov­ern­ment in im­ple­ment­ing post-flood re­lief works. Thou­sands are still de­prived of their due share of re­lief. Bland rhetoric on new Ker­ala pre­vailed. The party and the gov­ern­ment suc­cess­fully turned the fo­cus on the Cen­tre’s bias against the Left-ruled state when­ever un­com­fort­able ques­tions were raised at home. The Cen­tre’s re­fusal to al­low state min­is­ters to visit for­eign coun­tries en masse to raise re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion funds was one such.

When the SC rul­ing on Sabari­mala was de­liv­ered, the ideal sit­u­a­tion for the gov­ern­ment was to al­low the law to take its own course. In­stead of al­low­ing the Devas­wom Board to file a re­view pe­ti­tion, the state gov­ern­ment was in a tear­ing hurry to im­ple­ment the court or­der. The CPM, which has ques­tioned ev­ery sin­gle court rul­ing that went against the party in the coun­try, sud­denly re- alised how im­por­tant con­sti­tu­tion­ally for the gov­ern­ment it was to al­low women en­ter the shrine at the ear­li­est. Re­mem­ber this is the same gov­ern­ment which spent lakhs of pub­lic money go­ing for a re­view pe­ti­tion in the Supreme Court against the re­in­state­ment of an IPS of­fi­cer who was un­will­ing to be sub­servient to the party. But in the case of Sabari­mala, the party saw a po­lit­i­cal wild card, but played it ter­ri­bly badly. It failed to read the game plan of the BJP and the Hindu forces aligned with it, which now has landed the gov­ern­ment in a real mess. In or­der to get out of the “pad­mavyuha”, the gov­ern­ment and the party are blam­ing ev­ery­one else with “play­ing pol­i­tics” by di­vid­ing the peo­ple of the state in the name of Lord Ayyappa. Both Con­gress and BJP have started cam­paign ya­tras in protest against the gov­ern­ment stand on women’s en­try into Sabari­mala. While the BJP ya­tra is to “pro­tect” the tem­ple’s sup­pos­edly age-old tra­di­tions and rit­u­als, mean­ing not “vi­o­lat­ing” Lord Ayyappa’s celibacy by al­low­ing women in­side the tem­ple, cu­ri­ously the Con­gress ya­tra is against the “politi­ci­sa­tion” of Sabari- mala is­sue by CPM and BJP. The CPM, how­ever, is try­ing to make out that the Con­gress is with the BJP on the is­sue. “Wait to see where both ya­tras would be­come one,” Pi­narayi Vi­jayan has ob­served sar­cas­ti­cally.

Though round one seems to have gone the BJP way, the CPM and the gov­ern­ment have re­gained lost ground. BJP and its lead­er­ship to a very large ex­tent stand ex­posed. Many of the ac­tions by party mem­bers in the guise of devo­tees around the sanc­tum sanc­to­rum have not gone down well with the pub­lic. A gen­eral feel­ing that the ag­i­ta­tion is not about women’s en­try or Lord Ayyappa’s celibacy but about po­lit­i­cal gains is fast gain­ing cur­rency. BJP state pres­i­dent P. S. Sreed­ha­ran Pil­lai’s open con­fes­sion to the same has only added cre­dence to it. Hence or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Nair Ser­vice So­ci­ety which had mo­bilised women in large num­bers ini­tially are now hav­ing sec­ond thoughts about be­ing seen along with the BJP. It is very un­likely that the gov­ern­ment will go all out as was the case in the first phase to make some women en­ter the shrine. The CPM af­ter the ini­tial set­back has now re­drawn its po­lit­i­cal moves. It hopes to con­vince those sec­tions within the Hindu com­mu­nity, per­haps the Ezhavas and other lower castes, that the re­sis­tance against women is an up­per caste ploy by the BJP to deprive them of their le­git­i­mate share of the Sabari­mala bounty. Al­ready there is some mo­bil­i­sa­tion of Adi­va­sis to whom Lord Ayyappa’s roots are at­trib- uted to. While Con­gress has lost face in the whole drama sur­round­ing Lord Ayyappa, BJP will be hop­ing the gov­ern­ment blun­ders once again by let­ting loose the po­lice force which ul­ti­mately can lead to vi­o­lence in the hills. The com­ing Man­dala puja sea­son be­gin­ning 17 Novem­ber and end­ing on 27 De­cem­ber will not only be cru­cial for the state gov­ern­ment and other stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal play­ers, but also the unity of the state. Chief Min­is­ter Pi­narayi Vi­jayan and CPM will be hop­ing that their stand on the unity of the state will help them gain in the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions. That way no one can deny the fact that Lord Ayyappa, trag­i­cally or not, has be­come an in­stru­ment of vote bank worth in­vest­ing in, in God’s own coun­try.

Pi­narayi Vi­jayan

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