Ernakulam: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday came out strongly in support of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) ongoing agitation in favour of the ban on entry of women of menstruating age to the Sabarimala temple despite a Supreme Court order overturning it.

The stand of the state’s ruling Left government on the issue is one of the most shameful behaviour by any party and government, Modi said in his first public address in Kerala after the controversy surrounding the hill shrine erupted.

“For two months the entire nation has been talking about Sabarimala. The conduct of the Kerala government will go down in history as one of the most shameful behaviour by any party and government. We know the communists do not respect Indian history, culture and spirituality," he said at the rally in Kollam, in an effort to gain political mileage out of the issue.

Modi’s statement makes it clear that the Sabarimala issue will be the major campaign agenda for the saffron party in a state where it be engaged in a prestige battle in the forthcoming general elections. The BJP has never won a parliamentary seat in Kerala, where the power oscillates between the Communist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). The party, however, hopes to change this by channelling the groundswell against the Supreme Court order on the Sabarimala issue.

In the evening, Modi inaugurated a 13km stretch on a national highway in Kollam and renovation works in Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, amid a Left-Right tussle over the events. Local MLAs and the mayors, from the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were not invited to the dais of the event, sparking protests. During the inauguration in Kollam, a crowd tried to heckle and interrupt chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s speech with chants praising Sabarimala deity Ayyappan, but was firmly warned against doing so by Vijayan.

In the public rally, Modi attacked the Congress for championing the cause of the devotees in Kerala but taking a position against the ban nationally.

“The UDF is no better. They will say one thing in Parliament and another thing in Pathanamthitta (where Sabarimala is situated). Your doublespeak has been exposed. If there has been one party that has been at the forefront of respecting Kerala’s culture, it is the BJP," said Modi.

The Prime Minister posited triple talaq, practised by the Muslims, as a degenerative practice, but held Sabarimala as a matter of faith.

Modi also attacked the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the first party of Kerala’s Muslim community and the second biggest ally of Congress. “The (10% quota) bill was passed by a historic majority in Parliament. But in Lok sabha, three MPs voted against it. We know which party they are from. It is the IUML, the second largest partner of UDF," he said.

Modi urged voters in Kerala give a chance to the BJP. The UDF and LDF are two sides of the same old coin, he alleged, different in name but same in corruption, casteism, and damaging Kerala’s cultural fabric and political violence.

The Prime Minister also spoke at a public meeting in Balangiri in Odisha on Tuesday where he targeted the opposition parties for not doing enough to protect Indian culture and heritage. Modi said most parties were coming together because they know that he would act against corruption.

Gyan Varma contributed to this story.

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