“This Is Strategy”: On Camera, BJP Leader’s Sabarimala Boast

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The BJP has openly supported protesters who stopped women from entering the Sabarimala shrine (PTI)

Thiruvananthapuram:

The BJP's top leader in Kerala has been caught on camera allegedly boasting about the Sabarimala temple protests and how a priest consulted him on keeping women below 50 out of the shrine even if it meant defying the Supreme Court. In the video leaked to the media, Sreedharan Pillai, the BJP's Kerala president, is heard telling party workers that the Sabarimala Tanthri or head priest called him and was worried about contempt if he defied the Supreme Court and closed down the shrine if women entered the complex.

The video surfaced just before the temple opened on Monday under heavy security that included thousands of commandos and a contingent of policewomen above 50.

Mr Pillai is heard saying he reassured the priest that if a contempt case is filed, he will not be alone; tens of thousands of people will be with him.

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"I told him you are not alone. This won't be contempt of court. If there is contempt of court case registered, then it will be against us first. There will be tens of thousands of people with you. When I told him that he won't be alone, he said that that one word was enough for him. And he took a stern decision that day. It was that decision that put the state government and the police on the backfoot," the BJP leader is heard telling party men.

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Sabarimala Temple Protests: Sreedharan Pillai is heard saying he reassured the Sabarimala Tanthri or head priest that if a contempt case is filed, he will not be alone; tens of thousands of people will be with him

He also appears to say: "I hope he will do the same thing today as well."

Mr Pillai says it is "destiny" that he and the priest both are part of the contempt petition. "This will only encourage his confidence in us. So I was telling, this for us, is a strategy. So after seeing how this would develop, all of us will come on our side," he says.

The Supreme Court had in September ended Sabarimala's ban on women of a menstrual age or between 10 and 50 years. Several devotees refused to accept the ruling, calling it an insult to the shrine's celibate deity Lord Ayyappa.

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Sabarimala Protests: Over 3,000 people were arrested for violent protests near the shrine as 12 women tried to enter the temple last month (PTI)

The BJP defended its leader saying Mr Pillai was also a legal adviser for the priest and had advised him in that role. "There is no political agenda behind this. He just said this before Yuva morcha (youth workers) to encourage them," said the party's Krishna Das.

The BJP has openly supported protesters who stopped women from entering the shrine and recently, party president Amit Shah publicly declared support for those arrested for violence.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted there is evidence of BJP leaders plotting trouble in Sabarimala.

The odious politics and perfidious ways of BJP stand exposed. Evidence has surfaced that BJP leaders in the State connived to create trouble in Sabarimala. It must be noted that their State president himself was involved in the ruse. This is highly condemnable.

– Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) November 5, 2018

Over 3,000 people were arrested for violent protests near the shrine as 12 women tried to enter the temple last month.

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