Sonia Gandhi, Congress leader and former president of the party, stopped Kerala Congress MPs in the Lok Sabha from holding a “black band” protest against the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple, according to reports.
The Indian Express reported that on Wednesday, Congress MPs, after hearing the news of two women praying inside the Sabarimala temple, wanted to observe the day as a “black day”. They had also brought black arm bands to the Lok Sabha.
The report said that when Sonia Gandhi saw them, she stopped them and told them that the Congress stood for equal rights for women.
There has been a visible divide in the Congress over the Sabarimala issue. While state leaders in Kerala are against the Supreme Court verdict that allowed women into the temple, the leadership at the Centre has maintained that they support the verdict.
In fact, Sonia Gandhi is said to have told the party leadership in Kerala that while they could continue their protests in Kerala, at the national level they have to toe the line of the Central leadership.
Sources told The Indian Express, “She told the MPs that they could continue their protests in Kerala as part of their local politics. But at the national level, the MPs should not protest against women entering the temple, because it would go against what the Congress stands for — gender equality and women rights.”
Kerala’s Congress leaders have not been able to find a middle ground on the issue which has put the state in the spotlight for the past few months.
The party’s stand on the issue has oscillated between keeping up a progressive image nationally while opposing the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala. This flip-flop has led to much mocking, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan even calling the party the BJP’s “B team” in the state.
“My personal view point is that all men and women are equal. All women should get permission to enter into the temple. My party represents the emotions of people of Kerala.”
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had admitted, a few months ago, that his “personal view” of the matter differed from the view of the party’s Kerala unit.
“My personal view point is that all men and women are equal. All women should get permission to enter into the temple. My party represents the emotions of people of Kerala,” he had said.
The Congress also seems to have forgotten that it was one of their leaders who said in 2006 that she had entered the temple with her husband. Jayamala — Kannada actor, Congress member, and Karnataka’s minister for women and child welfare — had said she had entered the temple in 1986, when she was 27 years old. Her revelation had led to a lot a controversy at the time.
Jayamala had wholeheartedly supported the Supreme Court verdict as well. She had said, “Women will feel so happy to see a powerful god like Sabarimala Swamy... Why do they speak like this? I knew this decision would come. No matter what anybody says, only the law can give us justice. I only asked god one thing ― give intelligence to those who speak otherwise.”