The BJP and Congress in Kerala have stepped up their protests against the Supreme Court's verdict of allowing women of menstruating ages to enter the Sabarimala temple. The BJP is set to begin its "Save Sabarimala Rath Yatra", while the Congress has planned a series of padyatras or marches across Kerala on Thursday.
The ratha yatra, from Kasargode to Pathanamthitta, will be flagged off by senior BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa. "Our party is not against the Supreme Court's order but people's sentiments also must be respected. When 90 per cent of women devotees are against the order, it is our duty to oppose it," said Mr Yeddyurappa. Wherever in the country there are genuine protests "a big national party like us should support it," he said.
The senior BJP leader blamed the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for the "tense situation" in Kerala. "It is high time that the Chief Minister takes necessary actions and approaches the Supreme Court," Mr Yeddyurappa said.
The Congress padyatras will start from five locations. Congress state working president K Sudhakaran will kick off one of the padyatras from Kasergod. The other padyatras will start from Alappuzha, Thodupuzha, Palakkad and state capital Thiruvannanthapuram. Senior Kerala Congress leaders like MM Hassan, Kodikunnil Suresh, KC Venugopal Ramesh Chennithala and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy have been roped in for leading the protest marches.
The Congress hit out at the BJP's ratha yatra calling it "political opportunism." Slamming the BJP's ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, state Congress chief Mullapally Ramachandran said, "RSS' first response after the Supreme Court verdict was to welcome the order. Soon after seeing the sentiments of a section of devotees, they changed their stand. This is nothing but political opportunism and that's what the BJP and RSS are doing in the state."
Amid raging protests over Sabarimala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said that his government's only priority was to lead the state on a progressive path. He alleged that the BJP and RSS were trying to create a communal divide in Kerala. The Chief Minister said that he would not allow "social evils to pull Kerala backwards for a few votes."
The Supreme Court is set to hear review petitions filed against the Sabarimala verdict on November 13. The temple is set to open again for the main season of pilgrimage from November 16.
On Tuesday, before the shrine was closed, after the two-day special puja, there was utter chaos over reports of a woman devotee, less than 50, entering the temple. Despite unprecedented security, about 200 frenzied devotees tried to prevent her. The police escorted her to the temple after her identity showed that she was above 50. A video journalist was also injured after protesters attacked him near the Sannidhanam or the inner temple courtyard.