Analysis | Sabarimala and politics of pitching faith against law

Analysis | Sabarimala and politics of pitching faith against law
BJP leader Sobha Surendran attends a protest meet at Nilakkal.
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Pitching faith above law is a dangerous proposition in a civilised society. Unfortunately, all major political proponents in Kerala, barring the ruling Left Democratic Front, is treading this dangerous path, hoping to cash in on expected electoral gains in the wake of apex court's verdict allowing entry to all women in the hill shrine. Till now, the entry was barred for women in the age group of 10-50.

Immediately after the verdict, all parties had welcomed it. But as the chorus of fringe protests gained voice, the BJP, which proclaims itself as the custodian of all Hindu beliefs, did a U-turn.

It tactfully associated itself with various protesting devotees. The discreet saffron association gave the movement a booster shot, stirring religious sentiments. Homemakers were unleashed to the streets for a long march in protest against a verdict given by the top court of the country.

Analysis | Sabarimala and politics of pitching faith against law
Congress leaders Anto Antony, MP, and K Sudhakaran stage a hunger strike at Nilakkal.

The Congress, which felt it is slowly losing ground to the saffron party in the state, also did a volte-face. It conveniently forgot about a landmark verdict and staged protests as if this was an administrative decision taken by the ruling dispensation and not a top court order.

What prevented these political outfits from legal recourse, if any, to overturn or stay the verdict? Sheer political opportunism.

The LDF government's stand was always clear. The Supreme Court had accepted that stand and hence there is no compulsion for it to go for a review petition.

So, what the opposing parties in the saffron and Congress camp sensed was that since the government was unlikely to go for a review petition, an effort could be made to pounce on that opportunity and portray it as an anti-devotee dispensation.

Analysis | Sabarimala and politics of pitching faith against law
Police remove a protester from Nilakkal.

The dangerous assumption in this line of thought is that all those who oppose implementation of the SC verdict alone are devotees. The motto: Either you are with us, or against us.

Perhaps, this sort of cheap symbolism may help stir up passions in the short run. Earlier also there have been similar agitations of pitting believers of two religions against each other, including at Nilakkal, which is now the base camp of Sabarimala pilgrimage.

Such stirs may have had immediate fall-outs and there could have been political beneficiaries in the short term. But long term political gains are not a given.

Analysis | Sabarimala and politics of pitching faith against law
A police team, headed by Manoj Abraham, IG, oversee the affairs at Nilakkal.

The BJP wants to somehow get a foothold in the state, which has so far negated its advances. And given the saffron party's penchant to whip up religious passions, it is only natural that it would try such methods.

This time, it has taken cover under various outfits that oppose the implementation of the verdict.

The Congress has lost the plot by toeing a soft Hindutva line. As of now, only the ruling LDF has a definite stand on the issue. It does not hesitate to assert that the law should be above faith as reflected in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's unequivocal assertion on the issue. The rest of the political spectrum is riding on a wobbly wave.

They are just hoping against hope that somehow, the magic wand of religious sentiments would shower electoral benefits if they keep the issue burning till the Lok Sabha polls slated early next year.

Pampering to religious sentiments had not always yielded electoral benefits in Kerala. The classic example is of the UDF itself, which catered to all and sundry during its last term in office but lost its minority as well as majority base to the LDF.

Hardcore right wing stances have not helped the BJP gain a foothold in Kerala either. So by pitching faith against law, these political formations are actually banking on hope rather than reason.

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