BJP, Congress Ask Kerala Govt to Seek More Time From SC to Implement Sabarimala Order; Shrine Opens Tomorrow

Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress and the BJP asked the Kerala government to seek more time from the Supreme Court to implement its order on allowing women of all ages to enter Sabarimala as Pinarayi Vijayan called an all-party meeting on Thursday to build consensus on the issue. 

The meeting, attended by all major political parties, comes just a day before the shrine opens for the Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season.

The government’s options, however, will be limited as it is duty bound to follow the Supreme Court order and facilitate the entry of women into the temple, while the opposition BJP and Congress, who are leading protest marches to save the “temple’s tradition and customs” show no signs of relenting. 

The Vijayan government signalled it would stay firm on its stand of implementing the SC order by not inviting the state's law minister to the meeting after he suggested that women not be allowed to enter the shrine this pilgrimage season as a compromise. 

The Congress and the BJP had also given an indication of the stand they took at the meeting on Monday itself, soon after the Supreme Court agreed to hear review petitions against its September verdict in open court on January 22.

Welcoming the top court’s decision, Congress’s Kerala chief Ramesh Chennithala said the SC also understands the sentiments of the devotees and the Kerala government has to “act prudently now and not implement the decision during the upcoming two-month long pilgrim season."

The BJP, too, said the Supreme Court had taken a good step in deciding to hear the review petitions, and the party’s ideological mentor – RSS – has warned there would be more protests if anyone tries to “break the rituals”.

Ayyappa Dharma Sena president Rahul Easwar on Thursday also said women who wish to enter the temple would have to go through them and promised to guard the temple for the next 60 days, that is the duration of the pilgrimage season.

Vijayan will also hold meetings with representatives of the Pandalam Palace and the tanthri family as his government hopes to avoid a repeat of the violent protests witnessed outside the Lord Ayyappa shrine when it opened for six days in October. All political parties, the tanthri family and Pandalam palace representatives agreed to attend the meetings.

After the all-party meet, a meeting of the Travancore Devaswom Board has also been scheduled on Thursday to finalise the plan of action. "The board has sought legal opinion on the Supreme Court decision on Tuesday and we will discuss this at the meeting," board president A Padmakumar said.

Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said the government would go by the Supreme Court order. "We hope a consensus could be evolved in the all-party meet. The government will urge the other parties not to politicize the matter and create tension,'' he said.


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