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Why a Notification on Temple Board Hirings in Kerala Has BJP See Red

As the BJP and other Parivar outfits stoked a controversy, the state Devaswom minister Kadakampalli Surendran issued a clarification that by law all office bearers in TDB have to be Hindus

Achyuth Punnekat | CNN-News18

Updated:October 10, 2018, 2:18 PM IST
Why a Notification on Temple Board Hirings in Kerala Has BJP See Red
File image of Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

Thiruvanathapuram: Kerala government’s move to end lateral appointments to the post of Devaswom Commissioner has snowballed into a controversy with the Sangh Parivar seeing an “anti-Hindu” conspiracy even as the CPM-led Left Front government stood its ground issuing clarification.

The coveted post has seen people from outside the Travancore Devaswom Board ecosystem – the Board, a government entity, manages the Hindu temples in the state, including Sabarimala – after a commission set up to look into corruption allegations involving the board in 2007 suggested lateral entry to the top post of commissioner.

Bowing to trade union pressure, the Left government issued a notification in July 2018 that Devaswom deputy commissioners can be promoted as commissioner, effectively ending the practice of lateral hirings. The commissioner is the bureaucrat in-charge of day-to-day management of the TDB.

As the BJP and other Parivar outfits stoked a controversy, the state Devaswom minister Kadakampalli Surendran issued a clarification that by law all office bearers in TDB have to be Hindus, and hence there was no question of appointing a non-Hindu to the top post.

The current amendment had been brought in July to replace an ordinance passed last year to cut short the tenure of TDB. The Board's tenure had been cut short by the Left government in order to oust earlier TDB president and Congress leader Prayar Gopalakrishnan who had vehemently opposed women’s entry in Sabarimala.

Earlier law had said: "The Government may, by notification in the Gazette, appoint an officer not below the rank of a member of the Board of Revenue and who is a Hindu as the Chief Commissioner"

However, in the notification of amendments the section regarding the appointment of commissioner is immediately succeeded by the amendment to sub section 2 of Section 29 which says the words "who shall be appointed by the Board. He shall be a Hindu", shall be omitted. This seems to be at the root of the confusion.

Right wing outfits say this is a move to appoint non-Hindu commissioners. “This is a gimmick and there is a hidden agenda to appoint a non-Hindu. Earlier, when the Congress was ruling the state, a Christian was appointed as head of Guruvayur temple Devaswom board. They changed the clause because they want to destroy Sabarimala,” B Gopalkrishnan, Kerala BJP spokesperson said.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran told to CNN-News18: “No Non Hindu applications will be entertained for the position of Devawsom commissioner or any other lower post.

Kadakampally points out that earlier practice of appointing commissioners from outside is being abolished. Instead, the new rules say that only deputy commissioners of the board must be elevated. However, the current amendment also allows for appointing a commissioner from outside in case an internal candidate is not found.

“Just because we have removed the word Hindu doesn't mean that non-Hindus will be appointed. This story is misinformation that is being spread by the same people who tried to politicise the Sabarimala issue,” said Surendran.

Notwithstanding the allegations and counter allegations, the fact is that this news has been raked up by Sangh outfits to target the government at a time when Sabarimala issue has become a major political storm, and the state government has had to issue clarification.

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