Diminishing returns blight BJP’s Sabarimala stir

P. Sreekumaran

The law of diminishing returns has caught up with the BJP-RSS in Kerala. That is the reason why the saffron brigade has decided to shift the venue of the agitation from Sabarimala to the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram.
The ‘unkindest cut’ came from the Kerala High Court which strongly disapproved the protests going on at the holy shrine. Sabarimala is no place for protests or strife, the court observed even as it disapproved the restrictions imposed by the Police.
But, to the chagrin of the Hindutva forces, the High Court refused to remove Section 144 in force at the shrine – the main demand of a slew of petitions filed by the saffron camp. The prohibitory orders had to be imposed because of the violence unleashed by the BJP-RSS duo.
And the refusal of the court to order removal of the ban orders has come as a dampener to the agitation for the simple reason that it frustrates the gameplan of the Hidutva camp. It can no longer have a free run of the holy hillock as it used to have in the beginning. The HC has rightly observed that ban orders had been necessitated by the decision of vested interests to fish in troubled waters.
Also, various organisational heads who visited the shrine found that the situation is not as bad as is being made out to be by the BJP-RSS. The State Human Rights Commission, for instance, is of the view that there are no serious complaints from the devotees. Minor irritants have been taken care of, the Commission chief himself has stated. What has dismayed the trouble-makers in the saffron camp is the court’s remark that it still has faith in the police force.
As if all this was not enough, the decision to shift the venue of the agitation has sharply divided the state BJP unit. A section of the state BJP leaders led by Rajya Sabha MP V Muralidharan is critical of the move made without proper consultations.
This faction is also angry at the failure of the official leadership to launch an aggressive campaign against the arrest of Kerala BJP general secretary, K. Surendran against whom the police have filed a number of cases. Incidentally, Surendran belongs to the faction opposed to the official leadership headed by BJP State chief P. S. Sreedharan Pillai.
So serious is the rift that the central leadership has been forced to send a team to limit the damage caused by the internal strife. The team, as expected, has made the right noises about the failure of the LDF government to ensure proper facilities to the pilgrims. Aimed at enhanced optics, the team also made a big show of meeting the Governor and submitting a memorandum listing its grievances!
What has blunted the edge of the saffron offensive is also the determination of the Pinarayi Vijayan government to counter the Hindutva camp’s narrative. In a move that has been welcomed by various community organisations, the government has decided to construct a ‘wall of women’ from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram on January 1, 2019.
The objective is to mobilise public opinion against the ‘retrogade movement’ denying equal rights to women. Among other organisations that will participate in the programme are Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SDNDP) Yogam, the powerful organisation of the Ezhavas who constitute 27 per cent of the state’s population, and the Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha (KPMS). The organisations which would skip the meet are the Nair Service Society (NSS) and the Yoga Kshema Sabha, an organisation of the Brahmins.
The acute anxiety in the saffron camp can be gauged from the decision of BJP president Amit Shah to visit the state to ensure that the momentum of the agitation does not slacken. The BJP chief is worried because it has become evident that the BJP’s attempts to create an Ayodhya-like ambience in Kerala have come a cropper. The BJP’s central leadership has realised that Kerala is not Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat or Rajasthan. The secular mind of the state cannot be changed by the strategem which has succeeded in the northern states. The secular ethos is too deeply ingrained in the mind of the Keralites to be affected by efforts to polarise the people. (IPA)

Thursday, 20 December, 2018