The timing of Kollam MP NK Premachandran’s decision to move a private member’s bill in the Lok Sabha has raised eyebrows.

Eye on Kerala bye-polls This MP wants a law banning womens entry into Sabarimala
news Politics Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 15:45

The first private member’s bill to be introduced in the 17 Lok Sabha belongs to Kollam MP NK Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP).  The party is a constituent of the Congress-led UDF in Kerala.  The bill seeks to “maintain status quo on religious practices” at Sabarimala temple in Kerala as existed on September 1, 2018, before the Supreme Court opened the temple for women of all ages. The bill is listed for business on Friday.

The SC verdict of allowing women of menstruating ages to enter into Sabarimala split Kerala society into two camps- those who support the apex court order and those who oppose it vehemently.

While the BJP and the Congress, initially welcomed the judgement, the parties later objected the implementation of the court order by the LDF government. As per the Kerala government, only two women below the age of 50 have entered the shrine until February.  

Following the judgement last year, the BJP had put the onus on the LDF government in Kerala to not implement the Supreme Court’s order. The Congress, on the other hand, had attacked the Centre for failing to bring in legislation in Parliament to bypass the apex court’s verdict. Furthermore, the Congress had also suggested that the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government “act maturely and not implement the decision” while the review petitions were pending before the Supreme Court. The LDF was accused by the BJP and the Congress of being “stubborn” and in a hurry to implement the court order.

Having been an MP in the 16th Lok Sabha Elections as well, Premachandran’s decision to move a private member’s bill now has raised eyebrows in the state. This weeks after the BJP returned to power at the Centre with a massive mandate in the recently-concluded Lok Sabha Elections.

Political gimmick?

Speaking to TNM, Cherunniyur Sasidharan Nair, a noted lawyer, calls Premachandran’s private member’s bill a political gimmick. He says, “The matter is pending before the Supreme Court. It is inappropriate to discuss a bill in the Parliament directly affecting the subject matter of an issue pending before the SC. Presenting the bill now at the parliament is nothing but a political gimmick to show off that they are still the safe custodians of customs and faith. Because most likely the bill won’t get passed.”

He goes on to say that Premachandran’s move would in turn help BJP gain political mileage over the issue. “Instead it has given an opportunity for the BJP as well to again play the role saviors of believers. The treasury bench would most likely say that they would be verifying the issue after considering the verdict of the Supreme Court. The private bill has no locus standi. It’s an eye wash move by the UDF that would in turn make the BJP also to get political mileage,” argues Sasidharan.

The lawyer further says, “The treasury bench is also likely to promise moving a provisional bill, if needed, after the verdict of the SC.” This, he says, would help strengthen the BJP’s image as a custodian of faith even as it defers taking a call on the private member’s bill.

“If they were eager to protect the custom, they could have moved the bill earlier, they could have moved it before the Lok Sabha Elections while there was the liberty to move a private bill at any time,” he notes.

Keeping Sabarimala alive for the bye-polls

Political analyst Dr J Prabhash is of the opinion that the move has been done keeping the upcoming bye-elections in mind. The state will soon witness bye-polls in six constituencies as four sitting MLAs including Ariff have been elected to the Lok Sabha. Two seats fell vacant following the death of the sitting MLAs.

He says, “The motive behind moving the private bill now could well be with an eye at the bye-polls, to keep the issue alive during the elections. The UDF could well portray it as its victory whatever is the stand of the BJP.”

As for the Left, if its three MPs in the Lok Sabha oppose the bill, it would be painted by its rivals as the Left’s attempt to distort faith, while supporting the move would be a step back from its firm stand, says Prabhash.   

If the bill is passed, Dr Prabhash believes, that it would make the Left’s position in the issue comfortable. “If the bill is passed that would settle the issue once and for all, which the BJP or even Congress won’t prefer. In that case both the BJP and the UDF won’t be able to keep it alive during the bye-polls. The aim of both the fronts should be to keep it alive as long as possible and hence the intention behind the bill is questionable,” he adds.

Premachandran

Premchandran is the only elected representative and the lone prominent leader of the RSP. The party was a long-time ally of the CPI(M) in the Left Democratic Front (LDF), but walked out of the coalition on the eve of the 2014 elections after Premachandran was denied the Kollam seat.

Interestingly, the UDF has not clarified its stand on the bill.  When TNM asked KPCC President Mullappally Ramachandran his comments on the bill, he said, “I am not yet in a position to react to this. I am not aware if Premchandran had discussed it with the MPs in Delhi.”

The politicisation of the Sabarimala verdict and its implementation by the Left government are attributed as one of two major factors that helped the UDF to sweep the state in the Lok Sabha polls- winning 19 out of the 20 seats. The BJP, however, was unable to make any gains in Kerala despite the Sabarmala verdict.

Responding to Premachandran’s move, Kerala Minister for Devaswom Kadakampally Surendran said that it is the Center that should bring in legislation over the issue.

The lone of MP of the CPI(M) in the state AM Ariff told the media that he would be obey the law, whatever it is.

 

 

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