You play into the hands of someone who stops at virtually nothing to turn anything in his favour and then complain that the fellow has betrayed you. This is the plight of Pinarayi Vijayan’s Left Front government in Kerala on the Sabarimala issue. A leaked video of the state BJP chief claiming to a gathering of the party’s youth wing how the party had succeeded in hijacking the controversial issue of entry of women into the famous hill shrine shut out for girls and women of reproductive age for centuries has embarrassed both sides.
Pinarayi, whose stubbornness in trying to implement the Supreme Court order in spite of passions running high among Ayyappa devotees, upfronted by women devotees themselves, must have been living in a fool’s paradise to believe that the BJP would play ball as he would have liked.
For the saffron party, with its presence in the south of the Vindhyas being a big zero but for a momentary flash-in-the-pan success in Karnataka, the state government’s desperate hurry to enforce the court order was a heaven-sent opportunity to try and make the lotus bloom in the most hostile waters of secular Kerala.
All political parties, including the BJP and the RSS, had welcomed the court decision as a call of the time and a very progressive step. But, when they realised that the overwhelming majority of Ayyappa devotees were deeply hurt by the thought of the banned category of women ‘desecrating’ their favourite deity’s temple, leading to a spontaneous uprising, all the parties, except the Leftists, beat a hasty retreat and emerged as champions of the devotees’ cause.
The BJP, through a carefully orchestrated plan, stole the show, appearing to provide leadership to the protest, although it had to merely lend its name, while the communists continued to swear by the court order, despite a poor track record in implementing court decisions.
As soon as the temple reopened for the monthly puja after the Supreme Court verdict, it was clear that the steely resolve of the devotees to block any attempt to take women on a four-kilometre trek to the hill temple was too strong for the government and its police to beat. There even developed a new normal, where an activist or two would turn up once in a while and the police would go through the motions of providing security, but the attempt would be abandoned due to resistance by the devotees.
That was when the chief minister was away briefly on a foreign jaunt. But, once he returned, things were back to square one, with the police refusing to give up and nearly forcing a closure of the temple, further alienating the Pinarayi government. And that is the climax that the BJP is now taking credit for.