Ramesh Chennithala, the leader of the Congress Party in the state legislative assembly, took aim at the state BJP for maintaining that the central government had no power issue an ordinance in this case.
BJP’s state president PS Sreedharan Pillai has repeatedly claimed that the subject came in the ‘state’ list of legislative subjects and therefore, the center could not make a law about the issue.
Instead, Pillai had said that the Kerala Legislative Assembly could pass a resolution inviting the center to create a law on a subject that is in the state list.
Chennithala said the BJP is running away from its responsibility and trying to shift the blame to the state.
“He is trying to make fools out of the people by referring to section 252 of the Constitution… He’s trying to obfuscate the issue.
“What we’d like to ask him is can the Center come forward to create an ordinance to address the judgement of the Supreme Court.”
He said asking the state government to issue an ordinance was meaningless as they have already sworn before the Supreme Court that they had no objection to the court opening the temple to women.
“The state government has spelled out its stand in its affidavit. Hence, it’s meaningless to expect the state government to issue an ordinance, because they already have a clear stand on this issue… The only body that can issue an ordinance in this case is the center,” he said.
He said the legally tenable way to overcome the impasse is to create a law that gives Ayyappa worshippers the status of being a relgious ‘section’ or denomination.
“What the center can do today is to study the legal aspects and create a law to overcome the Supreme Court judgement…A law should be created to classify Ayyappa devotees as a religious denomination under Article 26,” he said.
Article 26 of the Indian Constitution says: “Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right..to manage its own affairs in matters of religion.”
WITH THE BELIEVERS
He reiterated the stand that the Congress party was ‘with the believers’ in this matter.
He noted that in 2015, the last Congress government had withdrawn the earlier Left Front government’s affidavit in which it had said it had no objection to the entry of women to the temple, and given a new affidavit saying the traditions and customs should be maintained as they are. (The stand, however, was again reverted when the Left Front came to power in 2016).
“We have only one stand, and that is given in our affidavit. We are 100% behind the believers,” he said.
He also criticized the Left Front government’s handling of the matter, questioning their eagerness to implement the order.
“The over-enthusiasm of the government and the CPIM in the matter of women’s entry is deepening the crisis,” he said.
He was also critical of aggressive statements by ministers and CPIM leaders taking a hardline stand on the issue.
“The relentless statements from the ministers is not helping to defuse, but to aggravate the situation,” he said.
The state units of both the BJP and the Congress have, in recent days, come around to a position that is at odds with the initial, pro-judgment stand taken by their national spokespersons.