While the Sabarimala protests form the core of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll plank in central Travancore, a recent attempt by the party to get as much out of it was dealt a blow with the Pandalam palace, trustees of the hill shrine, rejecting an offer to contest the Assembly elections with party support.
Sources said the offer was made to the Pandalam palace managing committee by BJP State president K.Surendran, when his pre-election rally, Vijay Yatra, reached Pandalam last week. While paying a visit to the palace, Mr.Surendran held discussions with P.G. Sasikumara Varma and P.N. Narayana Varma, president and secretary of the palace body, and sought their support in the elections.
“During the discussions, Mr.Surendran also sought to know whether the palace committee president would be interested in contesting the election either as a BJP candidate or as an independent from any seat of his choice. The palace functionaries, however, stood indifferent to this proposal citing impropriety in mixing politics in matters relating to Lord Ayyappa — the main deity of Sabarimala,” they said.
The meeting was then followed up with a couple of phone calls from the BJP leadership but the palace authority stood its ground.
Active in protests
The Pandalam palace had been in the forefront of a series of protests against the State government in connection with the Sabarimala women entry issue in 2018. An active participation by BJP workers in these protests helped the party expand its base in and around the region.
In the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, BJP candidate K.Surendran received 51,260 votes from the Adoor Assembly segment alone, which covers Pandalam. A year later, the party went on to win the Pandalam municipality single-handedly, besides retaining power in Kulanada, an adjacent panchayat.
Mr.Surendran had also reached out to the Thazhamon Madhom, the family of Sabarimala Tantri, when the rally reached Chengannur in Alappuzha and held discussions with Kandararu Rajeevaru, the Tantri (chief priest) of the hill temple.