The Kerala unit of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) hardened its stance on the Sabarimala issue, with PS Sreedharan Pillai, its president, announcing a “long march” from the shrine to the Secretariat here.

The march will begin on October 10 and culminate on October 15, just three days before the hill shrine opens for the annual festival. Last year, 5 crore pilgrims visited the shrine.

‘Govt duty-bound’

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today reiterated that he was duty-bound to implement the Supreme Court’s order, allowing women of all ages access to the shrine.

The apex court had paved the way for the entry of all women into the temple, saying their ‘repression under the garb of physiological factors’ cannot be legitimised.

The State government’s decision to not contest the verdict, and stopping the Devaswom board (temple administrators) from filing a review petition, incurred the wrath of devotees.

The Chief Minister himself suffered a personal setback when the Tantri (high priests) family and the Pandalam palace — closely linked with Lord Ayyappa’s legacy — spurned his invitation to hold conciliatory talks.

The issue has taken political hue with the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) on one side and the BJP and the Congress on the other.

Though Vijayan’s popularity might take a hit, the CPI(M) leadership (the party is part of the LDF) must be chuckling to itself over the turn of events, say observers. The soft Hindutva pushed by the Congress — as evidenced by its stand on Sabarimala — might undermine the BJP’s move to use the Sabarimala issue during the 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign, they say.

It could also be a well-thought out strategy by the CPI(M) and the Congress, which have ruled the State by turn until now, to stop the BJP from gaining ground.