Malappuram (Kerala): Seeking to put the Sabarimala issue on the back-burner in poll-bound Kerala, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday said there was nothing to be discussed or debated now as the review pleas against allowing women in 10-50 age group into the hill shrine are before the Supreme Court.
“Whenever the court pronounces the final verdict and if it concerns the devotees in any manner, then at that time the government will hold discussion with all the sections of the society and take necessary steps,” he told reporters here in response to a question.
His remarks came amid demands by the opposition Congress, BJP and others that he clarify his position in the wake of contradictory views expressed by a minister and the CPI(M) top leadership over the issue.
Vijayan was responding to a query on CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury rejecting state Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran’s expression of regret over the incidents witnessed in the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa in 2018.
Sabarimala and several other parts of the state were then rocked by protests against the ‘hasty’ decision of the Left Democratic Front government to implement the apex court verdict allowing women of all age groups to enter the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
The issue has come back into focus during the campaign for the April 6, 2021 assembly elections, with Congress and BJP attacking the ruling front.
“The incidents that took place in Sabarimala in 2018 [were] something which had pained all of us. It should never have happened. It has pained everyone…it has pained me also,” Surendran told television channels last week. He had also said the final verdict of the Supreme Court would be implemented only after consultations with believers, political parties and the general public.
Speaking to reporters in Delhi on Tuesday, Yechury had said he was not aware of the reason why Surendran expressed regret. “The party stance on the matter remains the same. It was the apex court which pronounced the verdict allowing women of all age to enter the temple, and the state government was duty-bound to implement the verdict,” he had said.
Union minister V. Muraleedharan said the chief minister should respond to Yechury’s stand.
Leader of the opposition in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress accused Vijayan of deceiving the devotees of the state and said he should stop fooling people. “Has he [Pinarayi] got the guts to stand by his earlier stance on Sabarimala? I challenge him. If he has got any decency, he should apologise to the people of the state saying his stand was wrong,” he told reporters in Haripad, his constituency, from where he was elected for the fourth time in 2016.
Nair Service Society general secretary Sukumaran Nair said the government and the chief minister have a moral responsibility to clarify their position on the Sabarimala issue.
Dr S.S. Lal, the United Democratic Front candidate from Kazhakootam, where Surendran is also contesting, wanted to know if the latter would reject the statement of Yechury.
On the allegation by BJP leader R. Balashankar that there was a “deal” between the saffron party and CPI(M) in various constituencies, including Chengannur and Konni, Vijayan described it as an internal matter of the BJP. “I don’t know whether he was expecting a seat or he had demanded a seat from the party. It does not affect us. We just want to make it clear once again that we don’t need the support of any communal parties to win the election,” he said.
The voters understand that development is the agenda of this election and nothing else, he added. The chief minister alleged that the BJP and the Congress have hatched a conspiracy to torpedo the development aspects of the state.
The BJP has termed Balashankar’s remarks as an emotional outburst of a person disappointed over denial of a seat.