KOCHI: In early January 2018, Nair Service Society (NSS) general secretary G Sukumaran Nair travelled from the society’s headquarters in Perunna, Changanassery, to sit down for a lunch with Pinarayi Vijayan, when the chief minister was on a visit to Kottayam. It’s not often Sukumaran Nair, the head of the powerful Nair community’s social and cultural wing, travels to meet someone, even if the person happens to be the chief minister.
A month before the 2016 assembly polls, then chief minister Oommen Chandy had to wait for more than 10 minutes for the NSS supremo to walk into the room to meet him though it was a planned meeting.
The meeting with Pinarayi made news as it’s no secret that there’s no love lost between the two dominating personalities. Sukumaran Nair explained then that he had sought a meeting with Pinarayi to discuss the reservation for the economically weaker sections among the forward communities and that the CM had agreed to meet him when he visits Kottayam.
“When he kindly insisted to have lunch together, I obliged,” he had said then. But the meeting was considered, at least on the surface, a breaking of the ice between Pinarayi and the NSS chief. But things went haywire in September 2018 when the LDF, ignoring protests from the devotees, tried to implement the verdict of the Supreme Court which allowed all women, irrespective of age, to enter the Sabarimala temple.
“It’s an open secret that Sukumaran Nair wants another UDF term, preferably led by Oommen Chandy,” said A Jayasankar, political observer and lawyer.Founded in 1914 by Mannathu Padmanabhan, the NSS’ objective is the social welfare of the Nair community that forms 14.5 per cent of the state’s population. Sukumaran Nair had tried his best to convince the previous UDF government to approve the reservation for the economically weaker sections among the forward castes but opposition by the all-powerful Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) thwarted the move.
Throughout this election campaigning phase, the Sabarimala issue was raked up in various degrees by the opposition parties and the NSS. With the NSS chief on Tuesday, discarding his ‘equidistant policy’ by saying that he believes this election will see a vote against the LDF government by the devotees on the polling day, the Sabarimala issue became one of the hot topics of this election and the man UDF should thank is the 77-year-old from Perunna. Will it yield dividends in the election outcome for the UDF? We will know the answer on May 2.