LDF caught unawares as UDF pilots draft bills on PSC, Sabarimala

Pinarayi Vijayan, Ramesh Chennithala
Pinarayi Vijayan, Ramesh Chennithala. Design: Onmanorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The ruling Left Democratic Front has been caught off guard by a couple of assertive moves by the opposition United Democratic Front in the last few days. The draft bills piloted by the UDF on the Sabarimala imbroglio and against appointments that bypass the Public Service Commission have become a political googly of sorts as the ruling dispensation feels outsmarted by its better-prepared opponent just ahead of the crucial assembly elections.

The draft bills have made the government and the LDF liable to explain its position on Sabarimala and backdoor appointments. Though the powers to legislate is vested with the government, a peculiar situation has risen now wherein the ruling front has now to clarify on its stand or come out with a convincing solution to the issues addressed in the draft bills proposed by the UDF.

CPM's discomfiture

The CPM and the government had earlier ridiculed the UDF claim that if voted to power it would bring in a legislation to ensure the protection of religious customs and rituals. But the opposition front gave a befitting reply with the draft of a bill it envisages to move in the legislature if voted back to power in the upcoming state polls.

The UDF also framed a draft bill to regulate and check backdoor appointments even as the issue has been raging in the state and the government faced serious charges of granting jobs and regularising the temporary jobs of several CPM's sympathisers.

On the Sabarimala issue, the party had to go back on the state secretariat decision that no matter what the provocations are it would not fall in the trap set by the opposition by way of raking up the issue of women's entry to the hill shrine.

However, the UDF's draft bill has now forced the party and the government to take up the Sabarimala issue. With that the party will be haunted by the nightmares of Lok Sabha election when it was nearly swept away by the Congress-led UDF, a defeat blamed on the backlash from the Hindu community upset over the government letting in women devotees to the temple.

The CPM had earlier stated categorically that whatever may be the Supreme Court verdict the government is committed to implementing it, but it has now hinted a rethink. The party now states that in the event of another apex court judgment on the matter it would implement the verdict but only after a consensus. In other words, the party and LDF government led by it have gone back on its earlier stand on the 2018 verdict.

The apex court has taken up a clutch of review petitions on its previous verdict.

Even CPM central committee stand ignored

On the Sabarimala issue, the CPM had so far stressed on gender equality and not on the protection of customs and rituals. Even though the CPM suffered political and electoral setbacks for implementing the Supreme Court verdict, the party central committee meeting held in January stuck to its stand. The central committee had then observed that the Supreme Court should have rejected the petitions challenging its verdict allowing entry of young women in the Sabarimala temple.

The party decided to stand firm on its position that there should be equality for men and women in all spheres including places of worship. Now with the CPM sensing that the UDF has begun raking up Sabarimala issue again with a purpose, its leaders, including politburo members S Ramachandran Pillai and M A Baby, have ignored the central committee's earlier stand.

Law Minister A K Balan claimed that the existing affidavit submitted by the government before the Supreme Court was favourable to the believers.

On favouritism to acolytes

The LDF government has also been in a spot of bother over the ongoing agitations against appointments that favoured Leftist supporters while ignoring hundreds of PSC rank-holders awaiting the recruitment offer to government posts.

CPM leaders have alleged that the opposition was behind the agitation. But the agitating rank-holders have refuted the allegations and dared the ruling front to show even a single political party flag in their agitation venues.

They also rejected the LDF ministers view that the problems of the rank-holders and the regularisation of the temporary staff were two different issues.

As the anger against LDF apathy to job-seekers mounts, the UDF rubbed it in with a clever proposal to check illegal appointments that make the public recruiter, PSC, irrelevant.

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