The opposition UDF and the ruling LDF were engaged in a war of words on Tueday over Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s remarks regarding Lord Ayyappa, the preceding deity of Sabrimala, on polling day.

While the Sabarimala women’s temple entry issue has emerged as the central theme for debates between the opposition UDF and the NDA against the ruling LDF, the issue gained political heat after Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, Lord Ayyappa is with the LDF government and has protected the interest of people belonging to all religions.

The remark was in response to Sukumaran Nair, the general secretary of the Nair Service Society, an outfit representing the Hindu Nair community, who had said the Ayyappa devotees’ protests against the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age group at Sabarimala will continue.

The Chief Minister said he does not think that Sukumaran Nair would tell anything against the state government. “He is an Ayyappa devotee. Ayyappa and all other gods are with this government which has protected the interest of people belonging to all religions. Gods are always with those who do good for people,” Vijayan told reporters in Kannur after casting his vote.

The remark has sparked a controversy with opposition leaders slamming Vijayan for hurting sentiments. Congress leader and MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor said “the time to remember Lord Ayyappa was not today, on election day, but at the time they were putting helmets and jackets on women and sending them up the hill.I t reveals the complete intellectual bankruptcy of communist ideology in Kerala.”

Former defence minister and Congress leader AK Antony urged Vijayan to tender apology to Lord Ayyappa and the devotees for what the government had done at the hillock shrine. “If the Chief Minister was not ready to express sincere regret, his words about Sabarimala and Lord Ayyappa were just drama, he said.

The Congress has proposed a special law to protect the traditions of the Sabarimala lord Ayyappa temple in its election manifesto. They even released a draft law that entails a jail term for the violators.

Kerala witnessed heavy polling in the crucial assembly elections on Tuesday with over 65 per cent of the total 2.4 crore voters having already cast their franchise to elect representatives in 140 constituencies, according to figures released by the Election Commission till 4.30 pm.

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