The ancient practice of giving Vishu kaineettam has landed actor-turned-politician and Bharatiya Janata Party MP, Suresh Gopi, in a controversy in Kerala as netizens criticised him after a video in which he was seen sitting in a car distributing money and people touching his feet accepting their kaineettam, went viral on social media platforms.
According to Hindu custom, the eldest member in the family gives money to children and other members as kaineettam in the morning with a blessing that wealth will multiply as part of the harvest festival Vishu, which falls on April 15 this year.
The national award-winning actor, whose tenure as Rajya Sabha MP would end later this month, had organised a mass Vishu kaineettam campaign earlier this week in Thrissur, where he unsuccessfully contested in the last assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
Besides BJP activists, he also distributed one rupee currency note as kaineettam to people from various walks of life including children and elderly across the district.
In the controversial video, Gopi could be seen sitting in a car distributing money while people including women queued in front of him to accept their kaineettam.
Many of them could be seen touching his feet seeking his blessings after accepting the money.
The actor-turned MP had to face criticism on social media as many netizens opined that it was not appropriate for him to allow people, especially women, to touch his feet.
However, those who came out supporting Gopi said touching the feet after accepting the kaineettam is also part of Hindu customs.
Calling his critics choriyan makrikkoottam (which can be roughly translated as an army of irritating tadpoles), the leader said they could not find the virtue of Vishu kaineettam and the good intention behind what he did.
Also terming the criticism against him as 'intolerance,' Gopi said he was not seeking votes but was giving kaineettam to children and elderly.
As the issue triggered a row, the organisers of a function, held in Thiruvananthapuram in which the actor distributed kaineettam to BJP workers on Wednesday, requested them not to touch Gopi's feet after accepting their gift.
Meanwhile, the kaineettaam triggered another row when the BJP MP gave money to the melsanthi (chief priest) of the famed Vadakkumnathan temple in Thrissur to distribute money to devotees on Vishu day.
Though the BJP claimed that there was nothing wrong for temple priests to accept money from individuals to distribute kaineettam to devotees visiting temples on the Vishu day, the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist's local leaders came out against it.
Following that, the Cochin Devaswom Board, the temple body which manages the Vadakkumnathan shrine, the other day issued an order banning priests under its temples from accepting money from outside to distribute Vishu kaineettam.
However, the Devaswom Board order reportedly did not have mention the actor's name.
As a mark of protest, the district BJP leadership in Thrissur distributed one-rupee currency to people in front of the temple in the town.