The Congress-led opposition UDF disrupted proceedings in the Kerala Assembly for the third consecutive day Friday, demanding discussion on the Sabarimala Temple issue, leading to an early adjournment of proceedings.
The third day of the session saw proceedings, which began at 9 am, lasting hardly 22 minutes after Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan disallowed the opposition demand to suspend all business during the question hour and take up the adjournment motion on the Sabarimala issue.
As soon as Question Hour began, UDF MLAs rushed to the speaker’s podium armed with a black banner and placards raising slogans demanding withdrawal of Section 144 (prohibitory orders) in Sabarimala Temple complex and protection of faith of pilgrims.
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala requested the Speaker to do away with the question hour and take up their adjournment motion to discuss hardships being faced by hundreds of pilgrims visiting Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala during the ongoing “Mandala Makkaravillakku” season.
“When such a serious issue is being faced by pilgrims at Sabarimla, should not the opposition raise it in the House,” he asked.
The Speaker, tried to calm down members, but in vain.
He said the House had discussed the Sabarimala issue for eight hours.
The Kerala High Court has appointed a three-member committee to observe activities at Sabarimala during the current pilgrim season, he said.
“We do not have only a single issue. There are other matters to be taken up like the devastation caused by floods, Air Force has asked the state government for payment for relief works undertaken etc”, the speaker added.
The Speaker informed opposition MLAs that he was prepared to allow them to raise the issue as a submission. However, the members continued their sloganeering, following which the speaker ended proceedings and adjourned the House for the day.
Later talking to reporters, Chennithala said the previous UDF government had allowed raising of the Solar issue at least 8-9 times in the house.
“We were prepared to cooperate today with the Question Hour and not disrupt proceedings. We wanted to protect our rights and wanted permission to move an adjournment motion, which was disallowed,” he said and criticised the speaker’s unilateral decision.
“We expect justice from the speaker,” he added.
Chennithala alleged there was a “hidden agenda” between the ruling CPI(M) and BJP on the Sabarimala issue.
He also alleged there was a sharp fall in the arrival of pilgrims to the temple due to the violence allegedly unleashed by BJP/RSS workers and restrictions imposed by the LDF government.
The hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa has been witnessing protests by devotees and right-wing activists against the CPI(M)-led LDF government’s decision to implement the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict permitting women of all age groups to offer prayers at the temple.