Lok Sabha 2019
CM Pinarayi Vijayan also brushed aside the Opposition’s demands for his resignation.

The Sabarimala issue has not affected the elections, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media, two days after the Lok Sabha poll results. The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) was defeated in 19 of the 20 seats in Kerala. The government’s decision to implement the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala, allowing women of all ages to enter the temple, has been seen as one major reason for the LDF’s poll debacle but the Chief Minister does not agree.

“Sabarimala has not affected the elections. If it did, who would it have benefitted the most? The Bharatiya Janata Party. But the BJP candidate came third in Pathanamthitta (where Sabarimala is located),” Pinarayi Vijayan said.

However, he added that there were attempts to create a misunderstanding in matters related to faith and those would be studied by the party. “Some forces have tried to exploit matters related to faith and devotees. We need to study it,” the CM added.

He reiterated that any government would have had to follow procedure in implementing a Supreme Court verdict and the LDF did the same. He had even shown proof earlier of the Centre asking the state to issue prohibitory orders in Sabarimala, foreseeing violence.

The election result was not a verdict by the people against the state government, the CM said. This was not an Assembly Election but the Lok Sabha polls, so people had voted for the party that they believed should form a government at the Centre – the Congress, to oust the BJP. Pinarayi Vijayan said that Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s candidature in Kerala’s Wayanad was also a reason for the LDF’s poor performance. Many Left sympathisers voted for the Congress because of that, he said, noting, “There was an understanding then that Rahul Gandhi chose to contest in Kerala to make a presence in south India. As a result, we lost a section of the votes that we normally get. But the truth is he came to contest here because there was a fear of losing Amethi.”

Pinarayi Vijayan brushed away questions on the Opposition’s demand for his resignation. “That is a normal demand that the Opposition makes. But we don’t see this as a criticism of the government. The government still has good acceptance among the people. It is a blow to us (as a party) but it is not a sentiment against the government.”

‘A section of the Left votes polarised with communal campaigning’

Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said that the rival parties – BJP and Congress – were able to polarise a section of Left sympathisers with communal campaigning at the time of Sabarimala. “The BJP and the UDF had initially welcomed the Sabarimala verdict, but began a controversy as soon as they saw a golden opportunity to gain political mileage. They were able to polarise a section of Left sympathisers with their communal campaigning, to a certain extent. The votes of those who were deceived in this manner went not to the BJP but the UDF. This was evident during the time of the polls. However, a large section among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who were strongly anti- BJP in their stance, held on to leftist sentiments. Among minority groups we had a lot of support. We thought we would be able to tide over this with their acceptance,” Thomas Isaac said.