That exactly is the plight in which BJP state president P. S. Sreedharan Pillai finds himself in. What has caused acute embarrassment for the BJP and RSS was a controversial speech made by Pillai at the state committee meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM).

In a speech marked by arrogant hubris and bravado, Pillai said the Sabarimala issue has given them a “golden opportunity’ to grow and that all other stakeholders had fallen for the BJP’s ‘agenda’. The Sabarimala agitation, staged during the last pilgrimage season from October 17 to 22, Pillai boasted, was mostly ‘planned and executed by the BJP.” Also, the Sabarimala tantri, Kandararu Rajeevaru had consulted him on phone before announcing that he would close the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine if any women in the 10-50 age group entered the temple. The tantri has denied consulting Pillai calling the latter’s bluff.

Pillai’s presidential gaffe came as a manna from heaven for both the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF government as well as the Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), both a bit stunned by the enthusiastic initial response the agitation launched by the saffron camp on the sensitive issue had evoked. The Pillai pantomime, in fact, vindicated the stance of the Kerala government that the agitation was meant not to protect the interests of the ‘believers’ but to promote the BJP-RSS’s sinister agenda to further their dangerous design for communal polarisation in a secular state.

Realising the fiasco of his campaign, Pillai tried to control the damage by blaming it all on a partisan pro-CPI(M) media. But his effort has fallen flat with the state’s enlightened voters seeing through the orchestrated plan of the saffron camp to poison the secular mind of the state.

As a matter of fact, RSS-BJP was hoisted with its own petard. The boast that the agitation was aimed at protecting the customs and traditions of the hill shrine has been exposed for what it really is: a humongous sham and a well-planned campaign to promote its political agenda. The so-called protectors were themselves guilty of violating the age-old traditions! For instance, the RSS strongman from Kannur, Valsan Tillenkari, addressed his supporters from the 18 holy steps of the temple. According to custom, those who do not carry the “irumudikettu” (the traditional two-chambered cloth package containing offerings to the temple) are not allowed to ascend the steps. Tillankaeri compounded his offence by standing with his back facing the temple, which is again in violation of the traditions.

Armed with ‘clear evidence’ of the violation of the customs and traditions, the chief minister and the LDF twisted the knife in the RSS wounds. Tillankari also drew heavy flak for using the police megaphone to ‘calm agitated followers’ who had assembled at the Sannidanam in large numbers. It was as if the RSS cadres had taken full control of the temple.

The passive role played by the police also came in for sharp criticism. The police remained mere spectators when media persons, especially women reporters, were again attacked by RSS goons in a repeat of what happened between October 17 and 22. But credit must be given to the police for exercising exemplary restraint in the face of the deliberate provocation indulged in by the BJP-RSS combine, which was hell bent on creating trouble and extracting political mileage. But the police refused to fall into the trap and frustrated the game-plan.

The saffron camp was further embarrassed when the Kerala High Court termed as unjustifiable the agitation launched to protest the Supreme Court verdict permitting women of all ages to enter Sabarimala temple. The Court’s observations came while rejecting the bail plea of a person who was arrested in connection with the incidents at Nilackal against the entry of women to the temple.

The Kerala police have upped the ante by registering a case against the Kerala BJP chief under non-bailable charges for his controversial speech. Pillai has been charged under Section 505(1)(b) for making statements “intending to clause fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against public tranquility.”

There is no doubt that the Pillai gaffe has embarrassed the BJP-RSS leadership. It has given the opposition and the Pinarayi government a powerful weapon to push the saffron brigade on the defensive. Consequently, at least a section of the Hindu voters who were otherwise sympathetic to the cause of the believers have turned against the BJP-RSS in the wake of Pillai’s bare-it-all speech. (IPA Service)