The opposition UDF hit the ruling LDF at its most vulnerable point by releasing the draft of a bill that would debar women of prohibited age from entering the Sabarimala temple. The UDF game plan is to bring the Sabarimala issue right back into the electoral narrative, which had paid it rich dividends and routed the ruling front in the Lok Sabha elections.
The election results saw the ruling party being punished mercilessly for implementing the SC verdict allowing entry of women of all ages to the hill shrine, which until then forbid by law the entry of women of reproductive age, in a hurry. The SC verdict has since been challenged and is now pending review by a larger constitutional bench.
The ruling LDF seems to be have been caught on the wrong foot as it is struggling to come up with a credible response to the UDF move. CM Pinarayi Vijayan tried to dodge questions by newspersons the other day by saying LDF would go by what the court decides. The opposition asserts that the court verdict, which has angered millions of Ayyappa devotees across the world, was asked for by the govt, which had submitted an affidavit in favour of allowing women’s entry on the basis of gender equality.
The opposition is now daring the CM to declare if the government is on the side of the devotees or the feminists, who have unsuccessfully tried to enforce their new right, but were frustrated by resistance by the devotees.
The government had tried to smuggle in a few activist women, including Trupti Desai, to the temple, which led to state-wide protests by the devotees, who punished the LDF in the LS poll for its ‘reformist’ agenda. The UDF’s draft bill gives complete freedom to the tantri, the custodian of the temple by both custom and law, to decide matters relating to the temple rituals and declares Ayyappa devotees as a separate denomination.
The SC had based its decision to allow women on the ground Sabarimala was a public place of worship like any other temple, so no special rule could be applied to it to prevent anyone from entering the shrine.