By Ashraf Padanna/ Thiruvananthapuram
Former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy has accused his successor Pinarayi Vijayan of misleading the people on the Sabarimala court rulings.
The Supreme Court had on September 28 lifted an age-old bar on women of reproductive age from entering the temple.
It triggered a standoff between Hindu traditionalists and the state government led by Vijayan, who appeared hell-bent on ensuring entry for all women to the temple.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters staged a massive march in the state capital accusing the government of acting in haste even as the apex court is set to hear review petitions.
Vijayan provoked them further by saying the 1991 Kerala High Court verdict barring females aged between 10 and 50 was flawed and the top court had corrected it.
“His statement is extremely irresponsible and misleading,” Chandy, a member of Congress party’s highest decision-making body, said in a statement here yesterday.
“The Left government’s affidavit in the apex court concealing real facts led to the verdict (against traditionalists). The apex court has not overturned the high court verdict.”
Chandy pointed out that Justice Indu Malhotra who was the lone judge on the constitutional bench that delivered the verdict had written a separate judgment upholding temple traditions.
“If the government brings the attention of the court to these facts, it will pass a judgement in favour of the traditionalists,” he claimed. “Instead, the chief minister is trying to tarnish the images of the high court judges in the public eye. It’s not right.”
Traditionalists, backed by Hindu zealots, had camped at Sabarimala to turn back women who attempted to visit the temple after the top court ruling.
At least three women in the barred age group claimed they had visited the temple, unnoticed by priests and guarded by the police.
Last week, the state presented to the Supreme Court a list of 51 “women” in their 40s whom the government claimed had entered the temple.
However, doubts have arisen after five people on the list claimed to be above 50 and some of them were even men who had wrongly entered their gender while registering on the “virtual queue” to visit Sabarimala.
The Communists, the left-of-centre Congress party and the BJP are keeping the issue alive ahead of the national elections three months away.
Vijayan’s Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM is in a do-or-die battle to keep its last bastion in India after crushing defeats in West Bengal and Tripura.
The party calculates that it would spin votes of radical elements in the minority communities in its favour and help cement its lower caste vote base.
The Congress, on the other hand, hopes that through its “middle path” it can win back the upper caste votes which have flowed to the BJP, which is on a now-or-never battle in Kerala where it’s yet to open its account.
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