KOCHI: Despite Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Teeka Ram Meena’s warning that invoking the Sabarimala issue will amount to a violation of Model Code of Conduct and the UDF-LDF’s efforts to focus on the Narendra Modi factor, the issue of women’s entry has taken the centre stage in the lead up to the polls. With barely days remaining before voting gets underway in the state, concerns over a possible polarisation of voters has gripped the two major fronts.
The dilemma is evident in the LDF leaders’ attempts to convince voters the government was only implementing the Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages to enter the hill shrine.
Such was the pressure from the rank and file that Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala was forced to declare on Friday the Congress will bring in legislation to reinstate the curbs on women of fertile age at Sabarimala.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had unequivocally stated the party will apprise the apex court of Kerala’s the age-old beliefs and traditions and ensure Constitutional protection for matters of faith.According to the political analysts, the Sabarimala issue has affected the emotions of a section of the Hindu community and they will use their franchise to register their protest against the government. Signs emerging from the campaign scenario point to a significant shift in voting behaviour in at least 10 constituencies in the state.
In constituencies like Kannur, Vadakara and Kozhikode, where the BJP’s influence is limited to some pockets, the devotees may cast their votes in favour of the UDF candidates. Swami Chidananda Puri, Sabarimala Karma Samiti patron and seer of Kolathur Advaithashram, has already given a call to the devotees to vote for the UDF to ensure the LDF’s defeat in constituencies where the BJP is not strong.
The BJP is focusing on four seats - Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, Thrissur and Palakkad - where the party fancies its chances. Besides, the BJP is expected to increase its vote share in no less than six other seats
The BJP has succeeded in keeping the Sabarimala issue on the boil by exploiting the devotees’ sentiments. And the party brass right from PM Modi to K Surendran have been referring to the issue in their campaign despite the CEO’s warning. The Sabarimala Karma Samiti is conducting a spirited campaign urging the voters to use their vote as a weapon to protest against the government. “A section of women devotees have reacted emotionally to the government action at Sabarimala. It is this ground reality which forced Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala to give an undertaking on bringing in the legislation,” said political commentator P Sujathan.
“Initially, the BJP and the RSS were most vocal in their support for women’s entry into Sabarimala . Later, they sensed an opportunity and tried to provoke devotees. While Congress president Rahul Gandhi was in favour of women entry, the state Congress leaders opposed the move fearing the BJP will exploit the issue,” said political commentator Appukkuttan Vallikkunnu.
The Sabarimala issue is expected to help BJP make gains in the following constituencies:
Thiruvananthapuram lAttingal lPathanamthitta Mavelikkara Kottayam lThrissur l Palakkad
Constituencies where the UDF is likely to make gains
Kozhikode l Kannur l Vadakara l Kasargod