Kerala BJP state president Sreedharan Pillai has been shown bragging in a leaked video that the recent agitation by Ayyappa devotees in the temple courtyard was set off by a BJP worker, and that he considers the issue the ‘golden opportunity’ that the party has been waiting for in Kerala.
Speaking at a convention of BJP Yuva Morcha (Youth Front) activists on Sunday, Pillai expressed regret that the agitation soon moved out of the party’s control.
He also urged BJP activists not to treat the current agitation on the entry of women as a must-win battle, but instead to keep in mind the long-term interests of the party in the state.
“I would like to say that as far as the current agitation is concerned, the agitation from the 17th to 25th was more or less planned and executed by the BJP. Our state general secretaries went and stood at a place as instructed. They were able to carry out the instructions…,” he says in the mobile video apparently shot by one of the attendees.
Pillai was referring to the events of the 18th of last month, when two women — Rehna Fathima of Kerala and Kavitha Jakkala of Telangana — tried to enter the Sabarimala temple under the protection of an armed posse of policemen in full riot gear.
However, the two were forced to turn back at the temple courtyard after devotees lay down on the ground and refused to let them in.
“People outside don’t know, but it was under the leadership of a district general secretary of the Yuva Morcha that the devotees organized and the attempt by (Inspector General) Sreejith to take two women inside the temple was foiled,” Pillai said.
However, he added, with a tinge of regret, that the party lost control of the agitation soon after.
“But after that, circumstances were such that things did not remain like that. Things moved to a different level when photos and stuff of everyone who went there started appearing,” he said. However, he added, “I don’t think there was any damage because of that.”
He tried to instill in Yuva Morcha activists an awareness about the need to stick to a plan, instead of going with their emotions and treating it as a do-or-die battle aimed at preventing women from entering the temple.
Even if the women entered, he counselled, it was not the end of the world.
“On the one hand, we have the gains that are obtained when we move according to a predetermined plan, and on the other hand, there can be a situation where our opponents provoke us and almost take us off course,” he said.
Once a political move takes the shape of a mass agitation, it becomes a different beast, he pointed out. “I would like to point out that there are limitations that apply to an agitation, a movement for justice.”
He noted that the BJP workers keep in mind the long-term interests of the party, and not see this as merely a fight to stop women from entering the temple.
“Therefore, our aim should not be short-term gains,” he said.
“We must put up the maximum fight to ensure that young women are not taken inside. But we must remember that it is not an all-out war for us.
“It is my opinion that we must not look at the Sabarimala issue as a war in which people get killed and kill each other. It is a long standing fight. That fight has several levels to it.
“Even if they succeed in taking the women inside, there is a community of priests who know what to do in such a situation, who have received training to deal with such things. The priests today have more trust in the BJP..,” he reminded the workers.
He also urged BJP workers to realize that the party now has a “golden opportunity” to achieve something that they have not been able to for the past 50 years — a shot at emerging as a real alternative in Kerala’s two-front politics dominated by the Left and the Congress-Muslim League alliance.
He counseled BJP workers to study politics, like the Left Front does, and stick to long-term plans.
He pointed out that the Left Front always acts according to a long-term plan, and said the destruction of religious institutions is part of the Left’s long term agenda.
“As such, the act by Pinarayi Vijayan and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan of jumping into the fray with a battle cry and mounting a challenge to devotees within hours of the Supreme Court judgment has to be seen as a part of a planned move,” he said.
However, he noted, this enthusiasm by the Communists was not without its benefits for the BJP.
“I see their current stand on Sabarimala as a short-cut for us to achieve what we have not been able to for the past half a century.”
“Right now, it is a golden opportunity for us,” he said at a different occasion in the speech. “Sabarimala is a puzzle. How can we solve that puzzle?
“If we draw a line, we cannot ensure that everything follows that line. Everything is not in our hands. [But] we put forward an agenda, and people are surrendering before that agenda one by one, and it is my belief that when the stage is finally cleared, only two people will remain standing — us and our rivals: the current government and their party.”
He again urged his coworkers not to get carried away by emotion or short-term goals.
“So, as I said, it’s a strategy. We should not decide our course based on what they (the government) do or what the media says. The ultimate victory will belong to the truth, to morality (dharma).”
“It is not our part to respond to others’ agenda. We must set our own agenda and force the Communists and the Congress people to respond to it. Only then can we say that we are winning.”