Ramesh Chennithala kickstarted the Aishwarya Kerala Yatra, Congress party’s statewide campaigning ahead of the Assembly elections.

Kerala Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala speaking at a gathering with his hand raised
news Politics Wednesday, February 03, 2021 - 19:07

As the CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) eyes for a second term, its campaign has gone on the offensive by targetting the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a decades-old constituent of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), by questioning the secular credentials of the league. In retaliation, Kerala Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala chose to revive the Sabarimala issue.

The Congress leader dared the LDF government to file a fresh affidavit in the court, seeking to reinstate the custom of prohibiting women in the age group of 10 to 50 from entering the Sabarimala temple. “Sabarimala is definitely an important issue. We are eager to know whether they (LDF) are ready to change their earlier affidavit,” said Ramesh Chennithala during the Aishwarya Kerala Yatra (the Congress party’s statewide election campaign) in Kannur district on Tuesday. The electioneering kickstarted in Kasaragod on Sunday.

By reviving the Sabarimala conundrum, Ramesh Chennithala has reiterated his stance of prohibiting women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple, where Lord Ayyappan is the presiding deity. Leaders in the Congress party, both nationally and state, have been divided over the Supreme Court verdict in 2018, allowing women of all ages to enter the shrine.

While Ramesh Chennithala had said that he would stand by the devotees and pushed for a review petition against the Sabarimala verdict, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi welcomed the judgement. The national leadership had insisted on maintaining its secular values.

In 2019, too, soon after winning 19 of the 20 seats in the Lok Sabha election, the state unit of the Congress affirmed that it will bring in a legislation against the entry of the menstruating women into Sabarimala temple. In a press conference then, Chennithala asserted that if the UDF is voted to power in 2021, it will convene a special Assembly session and pass a legislation by including the matter in the concurrent list, as the Tamil Nadu government in the Jallikattu matter.

Chennithala had then claimed that the Hindus were hurt by the LDF government's actions on the Sabarimala issue and this had reflected on the Lok Sabha poll results.

Chennithala, once again, politically resurrected the issue ahead of the Kerala Assembly elections 2021. The state unit of the Congress, according to a report in The Hindu, had viewed the CPI (M)’s move to question the secular credentials of its ally, the IUML, as a tactic to consolidate Hindu and Christian votes, especially in central and south Kerala.

On January 27, Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala visited Panakkad in Malappuram ahead of the Assembly polls. Following this, CPI (M) state Secretary A Vijayaraghavan said, “Congress leaders only aim to develop their friendship with religious fundamentalists,” apparently referring to IUML.“Congress leadership has been reduced to such a level. Our state needs a leadership that aims at development, upholds renaissance values and ensures safety," he said on January 27.

Chennithala countered this by summoning the Sabarimala issues and portraying the CPI (M) as patently anti-Muslim.

On Wednesday Chennithala claimed that both CPI (M) and the BJP were silent on Sabarimala women's entry issue. This, he alleged, was part of an arrangement between them. “They don't raise the Sabarimala issue since it would boomerang on them. The CPI (M) was responsible for allowing women (of menstruating age) to enter the temple while the BJP was responsible for triggering violence in Sabarimala,” he noted.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and MP K Sudhakaran came out against the ruling CPI (M). According to the senior leader, the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the state is a ploy by the LDF in its bid to retain power. He said that the CPI(M) won the Kerala local body polls in December 2020 by riding on the back of COVID-19.

He then went on to claim that he “conducted” his “own inquiries” and found out that “COVID-19 cases are not spiralling as mentioned by the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Health Minister KK Shailaja”. Incidentally, Kerala is one of the top states with the highest number of active COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, a report in the Mathrubhumi said that a full-page advertisement relating to Chennithala's tour published in the party mouthpiece, 'Veekshanam', on Sunday, featured party leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. However, the ad extended the party 'Aadaranjalikal' (homage) instead of 'Ashamsakal' (best wishes).

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