Election 2019: Sabarimala Row and the Contest in Pathanamthitta Constituency of Kerala
As the election campaigning has entered its last phase in Kerala, United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP camp in Kerala are hoping to reap from issues like culture, tradition and beliefs – as they continue to highlight the Sabarimala temple issue.
Notably, the Election Commission had clearly stated that it is a violation of the Model of Conduct if the parties seek votes evoking religious sentiments over the Sabarimala dispute.
BJP aims at doing well in Pathanamthitta parliamentary constituency where Sabarimala temple is situated on a hilltop. The saffron party is hoping to make inroads into the Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram constituencies as well, by raising the same issue.
When the Supreme Court of India had set aside the ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala temple, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and affiliated right-wing outfits in the state had refused to respect the verdict of the apex court, and had unleashed mass violence in the state. Right-wing workers had themselves camped at various points on the way to the temple as they overthrew the law and order in the state. They even violently attacked women devotees who attempted to visit the temple.
Shortly after this verdict, the Congress leadership in the state had also endorsed the RSS’s stand, eyeing the political gains. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, however, ensured the implementation of the court order. The leading party in the Left Front, Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI(M), and its mass organisations reiterated that menstruation is not impure.
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On January 1 of this year, Kerala had witnessed formation of the Women’s Wall with participation of more than 30 lakh women. Following that, on January 2, two women had entered the temple as well. Following this, the RSS workers in the state had unleashed violence in the state, damaging public property. They targeted CPI(M) offices, as well as, houses of Left party workers.
In Pathanamthitta, where the BJP plans to grab Sabarimala-related votes, LDF has fielded Veena George of CPI(M). Veena, the sitting MLA from Aranmula Assembly segment was a senior journalist before she entered politics. When the region had been severely affected by the floods in August 2018, George was at the forefront of the rescue and rehabilitation operations.
“During the campaigning, many mothers had come and told me that I had helped in rescuing their daughters during the floods. So, the people of Aranmula know that I was with them during the floods," said Veena in a recent interview with The News Minute.
Veena George’s will be contesting agains UDF’s Anto Antony as well as K Surendran of BJP. Anto Antony, the sitting parliamentarian of Pathanamthitta eyes at a hat-trick victory by winning this election. When Anto Antony had contested for the first time in 2009, he secured the seat with a margin of more than 1,11,000 votes. But when he contested for the second time in 2014, his victory margin had reduced to almost half of the first time.
During 2016 Assembly elections, Veena had pocketed the Aranmula assembly seat, which was traditionally considered a UDF stronghold. The LDF camp hopes that she can do the same in the parliamentary elections as well.
K Surendran, one of the violent faces during the Sabarimala protests, is the BJP candidate in the Pathanamthitta constituency. There are 242 criminal cases against him and a majority of these cases are related to Sabarimala. The charges against him range from attempt to murder, inciting violence, destruction of public property etc.
On the ground, people are not as concerned about the Sabarimala row as the BJP has been claiming. A member of Nair Service Society – from which BJP expects support – said: “The NSS consists of members with various political affiliations and people from various political parties. Please don’t think that an issue like Sabarimala will make all the NSS members vote for the BJP,” adding that only three out of 100 people might vote on the basis of the Sabarimala issue.
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