'What authority has a secular government to administer Hindu temples? When Hindu temples are ruled by secular governments, what religious freedom do Hindus have?'
Kummanam Rajasekharan was the first full time Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak Amit Shah appointed as president of a Bharatiya Janata Party state unit, a trend the BJP president apparently wants to follow all over the country.
Kummanam replaced V Muraleedharan as Kerala's BJP boss, just ahead of the assembly election in the state.
The BJP plans to form a third front with the help of Vellapally Natesan, who heads the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalan, which represents the largest Hindu caste -- the Ezhavas -- in Kerala.
To promote the idea of a third front to voters, Kummanam began a Vimochana Yatra on January 20. The yatra started in Kasargod in north Kerala and will end in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, on February 10.
The always-busy Kummanam spoke to Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com after he embarked on the yatra.
You were in Sabarimala on Tuesday (January 19). With the Supreme Court asking why women cannot go to Sabarimala, the issue is being debated everywhere again. What is your opinion?
One thing I can say, even now the place is overcrowded and cannot handle the millions of male pilgrims that come there for lack of proper infrastructure.
The traditions and rituals followed in Sabarimala have to be discussed by all those who are connected with the temple, and nobody else.
If there is a problem, you have to find a solution, but the solution cannot be unilateral. There are tantris (head priests) associated with the temple, there is a Devaswom Board, there are priests and there are Hindu organisations. All these people can sit together, discuss the issue, and find a solution.
You mean, there is a problem and there should be a change in the tradition followed till now by the temple.
I have no authority to say that there should be a change in what the temple follows. There are people associated with the temple, and only they can come out with an answer and a solution. My personal opinion has no relevance here.
I am of the opinion that it is not the role of the State or the court or the government to interfere in religious matters. I am not talking about Hindu religion alone; if it concerns Muslims or Christians also, there are people associated with that particular religion. Let those people take a decision.
If the court or government takes a decision on religious matters, it will not be everlasting or acceptable to the concerned people. If they take decisions on religious matters, it will lead to disintegration.
The Supreme Court recently delivered a judgment that temples should allow all Hindus as priests, irrespective of caste so that they can perform the agama sastras at temples.
That is one fact all the pandits and tantris accepted long ago; it's nothing new. Even Chattambi Swamikal (a Hindu sage and social reformer: 1853-1924 who was a contemporary of Sri Narayana Guru) had said quoting the Puranas that it was not by birth but by knowledge that one acquires the right to perform pujas.
I have always been fighting for this and I am happy about the judgment.
At the first press conference you gave after you became BJP state president, you said that temples in Kerala should not be under the control of the Devaswom Board and the state government. Why?
What authority has a secular government to administer Hindu temples?
A secular government is beyond all religions and they have no role in administering religious places.
Every religion has the right to ask for religious freedom.
When Hindu temples are ruled by secular governments, what religious freedom do Hindus have?
In this secular state, only the Hindus are denied the freedom to take care of their religious places. It is not right on the part of a state government to interfere in the affairs of Hindu temples.
The believers or those who go to temples and donate money should have a say in the running of the temples.
That is what I call democracy, but in Kerala, the state runs the temples. I want the power to be transferred to the devotees.
How can it be possible?
Even if there is a Devaswom Board, only those who are elected by temple goers should be there in the board. Let such people take care of the temples, definitely not the state.
The state government can audit or check, but they have no right to administer a temple.
There are 2,000 members in the Devaswom Board, but there are around 13,000 temples in Kerala. Temples administered by devotees run beautifully. There is no politics involved in the running of those temples.
The temples administered by local people run much better than the temples controlled by the Devaswom Board. These temples survive, not because of the government or the Devaswom Board, but because of the local people.
What do you plan to do as BJP state president?
There is a K P Sankaran Nair commission report, which says how temples should be run. This was constituted by the then state government in 1983 and the next government has to only implement this.
If the BJP comes to power, we will definitely do this.
The BJP has not been able to open its account in the Kerala assembly. How hopeful are you of a third front led by the BJP coming to power in the assembly election?
We are quite hopeful. We work amidst the people and we get the feeling that the people of Kerala are looking for a change, a change from the UDF (United Democratic Front and the LDF (Left Democratic Front). There is a strong wave against both the fronts which we want to capitalise on.
Like Vellapally Natesan says, is it through Hindu unity that you are planning to form a third front?
We are not looking at Hindu unity at all. When we talk about a third front, it is a front that unites all those who want a change from the UDF and the LDF. It has nothing to do with Hindus. The third front will have various political parties and not just Hindus alone.
Natesan says if the two major Hindu communities join hands, it will be a major force in Kerala and it will help the third front. Can such a unity be possible?
There is still time and it is possible to talk to all the Hindu organisations. There can be Hindu unity. We are sure that a majority of Hindu organisations will join hands. But the third front is not about Hindus joining hands alone.
The Ezhavas and Nairs form the majority in Kerala among Hindus, but even though the SNDP is ready to join hands with the Nair Service Society, the NSS president vehemently opposes it.
Is it the caste hierarchy (the Nairs are upper castes while the Ezhavas are Other Backward Classes) that prevents the NSS from joining hands with the SNDP?
We have not had proper political discussions so far. They may not have joined hands right now, but that does not mean they will remain enemies always.
We have time before the elections. We have not had any talks on alliances so far. You wait and see what happens in the coming days.
How successful will the third front be without the NSS?
Didn't we get 15 per cent votes in the local body elections without their support? We are hopeful of getting another 10 per cent votes. How many per cent votes does the Congress party have?
The assembly election is round the corner. What is your strategy for Kerala?
Because of the rampant corruption, the people of Kerala are fed up of the UDF and LDF. They are looking for change and we want to project ourselves as the change.
What we are going to talk about is positive politics while the others are talking negative politics.
Are you going to use the development slogan which Narendra Modi used in the Lok Sabha election?
Exactly. Our agenda in front of the people will be food, water, earth, employment and equality in justice. We want Kerala to develop.
Even though it has all the potential, nothing is happening here. You see only total inertia and disintegration everywhere, in all the fields. We want the state to be a vibrant one, true to its potential.
My yatra will help Kerala come out of this inertia and disintegration.
Who will be the leader of the third front?
We are yet to discuss the issue of a leader, the poll strategy, etc. The first thing we are planning is the Vimochana Yatra to place these issues in front of the people of Kerala hoping that they would accept what we say.
Was it because of the organisational skill of RSS pracharaks that Amit Shah has chosen many state party presidents from among the pracharaks?
I don't think there are many party presidents who are RSS pracharaks. I just happened to be one, that's all.
What was Amit Shah's instruction to you after choosing you as state president?
Just this: We have to rule Kerala!