How NSS chief Sukumaran Nair’s Sabarimala remark triggered huge row on polling day

As CM Pinarayi Vijayan reacted to the NSS chief’s remark, it snowballed into a debate, with BJP and Congress slamming the LDF government.
From left: Sukumaran Nair, Pinarayi Vijayan, Ramesh Chennithala
From left: Sukumaran Nair, Pinarayi Vijayan, Ramesh Chennithala
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The issue over women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple became a hot topic of discussion among political leaders, even on April 6 when Kerala is in the midst of voting. It all started with a remark by G Sukumaran Nair, the chief of Nair Service Society (NSS), an organisation that represents the Nair community. “People wish to vote for those upholding secularism, democracy, social justice and those who protect the faith of people, which the LDF government was not able to do. The protests and opposition of people in the Sabarimala issue have not died down,” said Sukumaran Nair, responding to the media after casting his vote for the 2021 Kerala Assembly election from Changanassery constituency in Kottayam.

Though it was Sukumaran Nair who initiated remarks on Sabarimala, the issue snowballed into a debate after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reacted to his remarks, stating that Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity of Sabarimala temple, and all other god are with the Left Democratic Front (LDF). “Ayyappa and all the other gods and even the gods of those following other faiths are with this government (LDF). This government is protecting the people. All gods are with those who do good for the people. That is what you need to see,” Pinarayi Vijayan said after casting his vote at the RC Amala school in Kannur’s Dharmadam constituency.

Following CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s remark, many Congress and BJP leaders slammed the Left government. While Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said that the curse of Ayyappa will be upon LDF, BJP state president K Surendran said that “Pinarayi Vijayan and his demons” hurt believer’s sentiments by allowing two women to enter the temple.

The Sabarimala temple women’s entry issue kickstarted in 2018 with a Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages into the hill shrine temple in Pathanamthitta district. Severe protests had rocked the state in 2018 and 2019 after two women entered the hill shrine following the Supreme Court verdict. Although Congress and BJP raked up the Sabarimala issue during the 2021 local body polls, it became a poll issue in the Assembly election. The parties included the Sabarimala issue in their election manifesto too. However, Pinarayi Vijayan had refused to discuss anything on the issue, stating that the review petitions against allowing women into the Sabarimala temple are pending before the Supreme Court.

Reacting to Sukumaran’s remark on Tuesday, Pinarayi Vijayan said, "All fake allegations will be rejected by the people, like in the local body polls. From 2016 onwards, people have been with the LDF for the work this government has done, be it development or facing the great disasters. No doubt, people will present a historic win to the government,” Pinarayi Vijayan said.

Following this, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala hit out saying that the CM will have the wrath of Lord Ayyappa and devotees. “Does Pinarayi's statement imply that he, who is an atheist, is now touching Ayyappa's feet? Ayyappa nor his devotees will forgive a CM who stumped Ayyappa devotees. This government destroyed the purity of the Sabarimala temple. He will have the wrath of both Ayyappan and devotees,” Chennithala said, referring to the entry of two women into Sabarimala temple in January 2019.

BJP state president K Surendran even went on to call CM Pinarayi Vijayan an ‘asuran’ (demon) saying that Pinarayi has changed his stance on Sabarimala as he fears the government will lose. “The change of statement shows how frail he (Pinarayi Vijayan) is. It is Pinarayi Vijayan and his 'asura ganangal' (group of demons) who destroyed Sabarimala. The state government helped the Maneethi Sangam to ascend Sabarimala. In the cover of darkness, Pinarayi and his 'asura ganangal' took the women in an ambulance to Sabarimala. People won't forget this. Now by just saying that gods are with him, people won't consider it. He is the biggest ‘asuran’,” said K Surendran.

Watch video: K Surendran's reaction

Congress senior leader and former Defence Minister AK Antony also lashed out at the Kerala government, saying that Pinarayi Vijayan should ask for forgiveness from people. “When the Supreme Court verdict came, we had asked the state government not to implement it immediately. But the CM said that irrespective of the opposition, the Supreme Court direction will be implemented. Now he is thinking about Ayyappan. If he had thought about it back then, would there be a problem? The CM should also ask for forgiveness from the people and for making Sabarimala impure,” AK Antony told the media.

Congress leader and Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor, too, reacted, stating that the poll day was not the time for the Chief Minister to think about Lord Ayyappa.

Watch video: Sukumaran Nair's reaction

However, CPI(M) leaders came out defending the state government on the matter. Backing Pinarayi Vijayan, CPI(M) Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said if there would have been votes for gods, it would have been for LDF.

Meanwhile, Kanam Rajendran, chief of CPI and ally of CPI(M), slammed Sukumaran Nair for the Sabarimala remark. “He made a political statement, which no other religious or community leaders made. The LDF government took a stand that protected everyone’s faith,” he said.

Minister for Law AK Balan has reportedly filed a complaint to the Election Commission against Sukumaran Nair and Ramesh Chennithala for their statements.

For live updates on Kerala polls, click here.

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