This Article is From Apr 04, 2021

Nirmala Sitharaman Attacks Kerala Minister Over 2018 Sabarimala Protests

Nirmala Sitharaman's statement came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the Devaswom Minister as "one of the masterminds" to shower lathis on the devotees.

Nirmala Sitharaman Attacks Kerala Minister Over 2018 Sabarimala Protests

Nirmala Sitharaman Attacks Kerala Minister Over 2018 Sabarimala Protests. (FILE)

Kozhikode (Kerala):

Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday alleged there was "competition" between the ruling LDF and opposition UDF fronts in Kerala to outdo each other in scams and said they were not interested in people's welfare, but only "lining their pockets".

She also attacked the Left government over the Sabarimala issue, alleging that there was an attempt to stealthily send women, who were not Ayyappa devotees, to the hill shrine and raise the ''Lal Salaam" salute, a communist greeting.

Speaking at a road show at Thiruvalla in Pathanamthitta district, where the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple is located, Ms Sitharaman flayed the police action against devotees.

The state had witnessed violent protests by activists of the BJP and right wing outfits two years ago against the left government's decision to implement the 2018 Supreme Court verdict, allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine, where traditionally, those aged between 10-50 years are barred.

"Pathnamthitta is synonymous with Swami Ayyappa. What kind of violence, what kind of police action (was used) against us, the bhaktas, who were going for Swami darshanam?," she asked.

"There was a "conspiracy" to stealthily allow women who don't believe in Ayyappa but who want to go, stand there and say lal salaam."

"...Ayyappa ko salaam nahi.. This is a conspiracy. To go and hoist the red flag of communism before our dear God Ayyappa..."

They will thrash us and stealthily allow women to go to the temple, who when they attain a certain age, can always go," the BJP leader said, a day after she attacked Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran, saying he had sinned by unleashing police on devotees and that he cannot atone it even if he does penance for 500 years.

Two women, in their forties, had managed to trek the hill shrine, which had led to widespread protests from Ayyappa pilgrims.

On the second day of her campaign trail in Kerala for the April 6 assembly polls, Ms Sitharaman said the two fronts were competing to outdo each other over scams, including the gold and dollar smuggling cases and the solar scam.

The LDF has been hit by the gold scam, relating to the seizure of 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore from a diplomatic baggage at Thiruvananthapuram airport in July 2020.

The Dollar case pertains to alleged smuggling of USD 1,90,000 (Rs 1.30 crore) by a former finance head of UAE consulate).

The solar panel scandal, which hit the previous UDF government, relates to a couple cheating people of crores of Rupees by promising to install solar panels and offering franchise and jobs.

"Do we want parties like these? They don't care for the people of Kerala and are interested only in lining their pockets," the BJP leader said.

"In today's situation where you are constantly seeing corruption, violence and total policy of appeasement, we need people like you to stand up and say there is a need for an alternative."

"...You are not compelled to vote for LDF or UDF...Why not the party which is led by an impeccable leader like Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Is there any one allegation of corruption, misdeed, wrongdoing against the PM? Whereas there is competition in Kerala for scams-- Gold and dollar scams, solar and drug pedaling scams," she said.

Referring to the Rs 5,000 crore MoU signed with the US based EMCC, which was later shelved, Ms Sitharaman said the fisheries project was given by invitation to a US company.

The fisheries minister J Mercykutty had first said she did not know about it, hut later said it had been shelved.

A state like Kerala, which is rich in fisheries, was taking away the livelihood of the fishing community and giving it to the Americans, she alleged.

"... And then the state government points fingers at the Centre to say that the Union Government was not respecting federalism," Ms Sitharaman said.

On the gold and dollar cases, Ms Sitharaman said ministers, including a handpicked officer of the Chief Minister, are now answering questions of investigating agencies.

At any other place there would have been protests and dharnas and outrage by the opposition.

But in Kerala, Congress was not interested in asking questions, fearing that the LDF will raise allegations of the solar scam, she said.