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|January 16, 1998||
BJP, Congress use Sivagiri issue to trouble LDF in Kerala
The Left Democratic Front in Kerala is between a rock and a hard place, thanks to its take over of the Sivagiri Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham Mutt.
Now, with an election around the corner and the agitation of Hindu religious institutions hotting up, the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led LDF is worried about the effect its decision would have on the electorate.
True to realpolitik, both the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress are trying to gain mileage from the Sivagiri controversy. Swami Prakashananda, the 74-year-old leader of the Mutt, has just called off a month-long fast; his follower Swami Visudhananda, however, is still on hunger strike in front of the Thiruvananthapuram secretariat.
The BJP is fully immersed in consolidating Hindu forces against the LDF. The Congress, for its part, has issued a statement through senior leader A K Antony -- he has been silent all this while about the issue -- condemning the government stand.
Swami Prakashananda, meanwhile, said he was calling off the agitation temporarily in view of the high court's appeal on Friday. He warned that he would intensify the agitation if the Kerala government did not come forward to find a solution in a week's time. He said the ongoing agitation in front of the state secretariat would continue.
The swami had been continuing his fast despite being arrested and moved to hospital.
Meanwhile, LDF speaker M Vijaykumar (CPI-M) and former Supreme Court judge justice V R Krishna Iyer, a Left supporter, are trying to mediate for an amicable settlement.
Shops and commercial establishments remained closed throughout the state in response to the hartal called by the Sree Narayana Dharma Samithi and the Sivagiri Vimochana Samara Sahaya Samithi to express solidarity with Swami Prakashananda on his completing one month of strike.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister E K Nayanar had alleged that the swami was a 'pawn in the hands of the BJP-RSS-VHP combine.'
D Jose, UNI
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