SC order deepens Kerala govt’s dilemma; will all-party meet untangle Sabarimala jam?

The BJP-RSS and the Congress have interpreted the SC order as a victory of their stance. The LDF government is damned if it tries to implement the order and damned again if it fails to do so

PTI photo
PTI photo
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P Sreekumaran/IPA

Tuesday’s Supreme Court order on the Sabarimala issue has only deepened the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s dilemma.

True, the apex court has agreed to hear the raft of review petitions on January 22, 2019. But, significantly, the court has refused to stay the order of the Constitutional bench passed on September 28.

In other words, women in the 10-50 age group who arrive at the shrine for darshan when the temple reopens on November 17 for the Mandalam-Makaravilakku season cannot be barred entry. The government will have to provide them all security and ensure that they are not stopped by unruly mobs in the guise of Ayyappa devotees.

Contrary to some interpretations, the Supreme Court has not provided any respite to the Pinarayi Vijayan government. Almost all the stakeholders, including the Congress and BJP-RSS, have welcomed the SC order. But their refusal to suspend the agitation pending disposal of the petitions on January 22 has put the government in a fix. In fact, the BJP-RSS and the Congress have interpreted the SC order as a victory of their stance and a setback to the LDF government. The government is damned if it tries to implement the order and damned again if it fails to do so!

Both BJP-RSS and Congress have taken the stand that a solution will emerge only if the government sheds its intransigence. But the fact of the matter is that unless all the parties to the dispute soften their stands, the outcome would be anything but positive

It is against this backdrop that the government has convened an all-party meeting on November 16. Will a consensus emerge from the meeting? If the obduracy of the various stakeholders is any indication, it is unlikely.

For instance, both BJP-RSS and Congress have taken the stand that a solution will emerge only if the government sheds its intransigence. They are behaving as if the Government alone has the responsibility to defuse the tension. But the fact of the matter is that unless all the parties to the dispute soften their stands, the outcome would be anything but positive.

As for the government, it has three to four options before it. First, the government can go ahead on the plea that since the SC has not stayed the earlier order, it has no option but to implement that order permitting the entry of women of all ages.

The second option is to seek SC’s permission to keep the implementation of the order in abeyance pending the final disposal of the review petitions on January 22.

The third alternative is to persuade the agitators to suspend their agitation till January 22, when the SC decision on the review petitions would be known.

The big If is: will the BJP-RSS and the Congress oblige? From the look of things, it does not seem likely. Unless, of course, the supreme leaders of both the parties personally intervene and order them to stop their agitation in the interest of peace in Sabarimala. Will Mohan Bhagwat and Rahul Gandhi do that?

There is no denying the fact that the need of the hour is for all concerned to exercise exemplary restraint. One can only hope that wiser counsels would prevail, and the pilgrimage season would pass off without the kind of violence that vitiated the hill shrine on earlier occasions.

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