When a highly skilled team of Odisha administrators was stunning the entire world with mind-blowing hockey spectacles, the saffron brigade had chosen to look away and revel over the sudden discovery of a new find to be portrayed as the Chief Minister material for the 2019 polls. The BJP masterminds in Odisha went into frenzied euphoria believing the former lady bureaucrat is invincible as her name suggests. Aparajita Sarangi has temporarily brought to end the never-ending quest for a credible figure to lead the badly distressed BJP community in Odisha. Dharmendra Pradhan was fleetingly projected as the CM stuff until the madam materialised. Since his defeat in 2009, Pradhan has not been able to garner enough strength or courage to step onto the battleground again.
The Odisha BJP had no face until late. Dharmendra was really accepted as one. Jual Oram too has no great fan following in his own constituency is above all talking crap. He has long ceased to be a simple tribal leader with a nature-friendly lifestyle. So, Aparajita madam was enticed into the fold by some guile used by trades folk leaders by dangling the Chief Minister chair before her. She too has fallen easy prey imagining that people admired her when she was a bureaucrat performing fairly well in some of her postings. But as is usual in the BJP's netting techniques, the gullible lady may have been promised the skies without being told the truth about the party's slimmest prospects of winning the magic number to coronate her as CM. After being trapped tightly and inescapably, she was horrifically tutored to tell lies quite at the outset. She declared publicly that she was giving up the lucrative and glamorously prestigious IAS job to join a UN-linked NGO. Everybody believed her because she could be telling a lie. The State Government, which had facilitated all her achievement sprees by giving her real free hand, permitted her to leave so as to serve the poor anywhere in the world on a bigger scale. But she emerged from behind the curtains as a saffron leader. Aparajita is married to an Odia fellow bureaucrat. Her father-in-law, a former engineer, is excited beyond limits and takes great deal of pride that the Bihari girl speaks immaculate Odia and knows the local culture much more than many Odia women.
All the same, the BJP may be in far greater trouble as Dharmendra may have not taken the entry of the former glamorous bureaucrat well as his chances of being projected as the BJP face in Odisha have simply gone with the northerly wind. Further, the Dilip-Bijay duo that has just abandoned the fold may cause irreparable damage to the party no matter where they find a new home. Insiders keep murmuring that Aparajita would make a great Mayor of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation specifically because she had first become a celebrity administrator of the urban body while having a stint as its Commissioner. It will not be surprising to witness such attempts by her senior party mates who have been overshadowed completely by her despite having screamed and screeched hoarse to make the BJP popular. Aparajita may repent later for never having considered the BJD as the right platform.
The ‘Ram Mandir-crazy' BJP has scant regards for the secular fabric of the Constitution. The outfit, under the Modi-Shah stewardship, is more engaged in cow vigilantism than improving the quality of life of the poor. Lately, they have embarked upon the craziest projects of splurging public money on putting up record-size statues all over the BJP regions. The skyscraping Patel statue does not inspire Sardar’s principles in the hearts of visitors; it only attracts them to look around the artificial lake and expensively maintained gardens. One has to take a chopperride to see the beauty of the immeasurable work of art. The BJP is now working on a record-size Ram statue to please Hindu rightists as they extract votes by using force and fear. Similarly, there are the cow vigilante thugs who keep killing innocent cow traders and beef eaters. They have now shot dead a police inspector. Not once have they thought of the Hindu religion which is absolutely established on tolerance and universal brotherhood; hence, the name ‘Sanatana Dharma'.
The Sabarimala tale is equally horrific. The saffron gangsters have made life of people miserable by even defying a telling Supreme Court order making entry of young women. The Modi-Shah duo has not once condemned the fundamentalist approach of mindless Hindu militants who are causing horrific havoc at the temple in Kerala. The priests called ‘Tanthris' are encouraged by the saffron brigade to throw the apex court order to garbage. Only recently there have been several exposures by eminent Kerali and south Indian women of respectable stature in their articles and social media postings wherein they have categorically made clear the fact that their mothers and aunts have taken kid siblings for some first-rice intake rituals at the temple without any hindrance, nay with warmest of welcome acts by the priests until the late Sixties of the last century, which is not even fifty years ago. The strange phenomenon of fertile women being barred from entry came only with some High Court order pronounced by the judges who never looked up history but chose to float with the populist belief system. The temple has undergone significant ritual changes after the 1950 incident. One such significant change is the restriction on entry of women. The notion that this is a recent restriction finds resonance in the Kerala High Court judgment. “Women used to visit the temple earlier. The Maharaja of Travancore accompanied by the Maharani (queen) and the Diwan had visited the temple in the Malayalam year of 1115 (1940). There was thus no strict prohibition for women to enter the Sabarimala temple in olden days,” the judgment read.
Another important change that took place was the incorporation of ‘Harivarasanam’ (Sanskrit official lullaby of Ayyappa) as the official song of Ayyappa and Sabarimala. This song was incorporated as the official song after the firing of the temple in 1950. Makaravilakku (ritual festival of Sabarimala) is a most important attraction in Sabarimala. It is during this period that the most number of pilgrims reach Sabarimala. Facts categorically establish that the divine Makara Jyothi that gives Sabarimala pilgrimage a magnetic attraction among Hindus is man-made. Former Tranvancore Devaswom Board president Raman Nair has admitted that “the Makaravilakku is also done with the help of the police and other people”. In a letter the ombudsman for the Travancore and Cochin Devaswom Boards, Nalinakshan Nair said Makarajyothi has a history of 45 years only.
The Supreme Court restored the human order of equality of all in every public domain irrespective of caste, colour or sex. Discriminatory practice of any kind was rightly scrapped as unlawful. After all these human-friendly rulings too, the BJP think tank keeps toying with plans of causing fissures across an otherwise homogeneous Indian society. The British colonialists were never as non-secular or discriminatory on any of their reforms attempts. The practice of ‘Sati' was both inhuman and discriminatory. They abolished that the moment it caught their attention. In a democratic, secular India, the Sabarimala ban on women cannot happen at all. The BJP Government is doing precious little to uphold the Constitution by implementing the apex court order by any means. The Kerala Government is more sane than the Union Government as has already been proved.
Odisha fortunately has a far more secular and democratic society than all the saffron States which are certain to bite dust in the coming years. The BJD is likely to encounter the BJP as a tiny force in 2019. But after what the fundamentalist gangsters have begun committing, the rulers are sure of a massive victory yet again. The secular BJD roped in a few former civil servants only because the guys saw promise and a future in the party.
(The writer is a core member of Transparency International, Odisha)