Thiruvananthapuram: Leaders and functionaries of the ruling Left Front in Kerala now admit that the Sabarimala issue has played a big role in turning voters against the government.
Various exit polls have indicated that the Left Democratic Front (LDF) would have to be contended with only four to five seats, while the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) is forecast to win up to 16 seats. Exit polls also indicate the possibility of the BJP opening its account for the first time, managing to win at least one seat, going up to a maximum of three.
It was widely believed that the stand of the state government, which went out of its way to implement the Supreme Court order allowing the entry of women of all ages to the hill shrine of Sabarimala, would be the most crucial issue that decided the fate of the elections.
The Pinarayi government, however, has been hoping that its reformist stand would actually help the ruling front to consolidate popular support and convert that into more seats. That does not seem to have happened.
Devaswam minister Kadakampalli Surendran, who is responsible for the affairs of the Sabarimala temple and its administration on behalf of the state government, acknowledged to newsmen that the Opposition parties, particularly the BJP, managed to use the highly emotive Sabarimala issue to turn public opinion against the ruling front.
Former minister C Divakaran, who is the LDF candidate in Thiruvananthapuram, the one seat that exit polls predict as going to the BJP, admitted the inability of the government to counter the propaganda of communal forces on time so as to limit the damage. He accused both BJP and UDF of creating communal polarisation over the Sabarimala issue, but said the LDF response against it came too late.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who returned to the state capital from a 12-day European tour, dismissed the exit poll results as of no consequence and claimed that the LDF will score an impressive victory in the elections this time. He refuted the assumption that Sabarimala would have played a crucial role in the elections.