NSS hardens stand against LDF, Kodiyeri tries to build bridge

NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair,  CPM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan
NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair, CPM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan

Changanassery/Thiruvananthapuram: The upcoming Kerala assembly election has revived the acrimonious debates around women’s entry to the Sabarimala shrine, with the Nair Service Society (NSS) blaming the Left Democratic Front government for sending out mixed signals. NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair rued the indirect barbs from the chief minister and other LDF leaders even as CPM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that the community organisation was not being opportunistic.

Dewaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran, in charge of temple affairs, had expressed regret over the incidents that followed the government’s attempts to implement a 2018 Supreme Court order that lifted a ban on women aged between 10 and 50 atop the hill shrine. He was immediately rebuked by his top boss, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who said that the party’s stand on the issue had not changed.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, refusing to play into the hands of the opposition Congress and the BJP, said on Thursday that there was nothing to discuss on the issue which was under judicial scrutiny. “Whenever the court pronounces the final verdict, if it concerns the devotees in any manner, then the government will hold talks with all sections of society and take necessary steps,” he told reporters in response to a question.

Sukumaran Nair appeared to be peeved at the chief minister for not backing the comments of his minister and for defending ally Kanam Rajendran’s statements. Kanam said that the NSS was trying to blame the government to gloss over its failure in the court. The NSS had taken out a protest march to the state secretariat to protest the comments of the CPI state secretary. Nair insisted that the march was not politically motivated.

He said that the chief minister effectively denounced the NSS when he said that there was nothing provocative in Kanam’s statement. Nair said that LDF leaders would not be speaking in different voices if they were honest in their stand.

Kodiyeri, however, sought to build bridges to the NSS by contradicting Kanam’s statement. “The NSS had always had the same stand on Sabarimala. They never deviated from that. They are free to air their opinion. Nobody can blame them for that,” Kodiyeri said while addressing a meeting of the Association of Kerala Government College Teachers in Thiruvananthapuram.

He said that the BJP and the Congress were trying to rake up the issue with an eye on the imminent poll. “The Congress and the BJP have a strategy of gathering votes by misleading believers by bringing up the Sabarimala issue. They are in no position to face the LDF politically,” he said.

“Sabarimala is calm now. The faithful have no concerns. Yet the BJP and the Congress are trying to upset the LDF with their false campaigns. The chief minister has made it clear that the government will consult everyone about any verdict the Supreme Court gives in the case. That is the LDF stand,” he said.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, however, refused to let it go. The Congress veteran challenged the government to issue an apology on its handling of the Sabarimala issue. He said the chief minister had to clarify if the government’s stand on the issue had changed and if the government was prepared to file a fresh affidavit before the Supreme Court.

He said that the LDF government had withdrawn an earlier affidavit filed by the Congress government which sought to protect the rituals at the shrine. He also said that Pinarayi was acting out the part of a renaissance leader after sneaking in two women to Sabarimala with police escort.  

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