A legislation to protect customs of Sabarimala hill temple and a special law to contain ‘love jihad’ feature in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance’s manifesto, released by Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar here on Wednesday, for the April 6 assembly elections in Kerala. The manifesto also promises free laptops for students and free cooking gas cylinders to economically weaker sections.

Releasing the NDA’s manifesto — which is full of sops, just like in the manifestoes released by the ruling Left Democratic Front and opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front — the Union minister termed it “progressive, dynamic and development-oriented”.

“Unlike our opponents we only promise that we can do. We will take Kerala out of stagnation,” he said.

Some of the promises made in the manifesto include free housing, drinking water and power connections to all. It also promises six free cooking gas cylinders to economically weaker sections and free laptops to school students. A pension ₹5,000 per month is promised to the family if the main bread-earner falls sick or is unable to work. The manifesto also promises free title deeds of land to the landless among SC&ST communities.

Javadekar said time has come to stop alternating between the LDF and UDF in the state, adding that there was enough scope for a third front this time.

“The state suffered due to alternating power equations but this time people are looking for a change,” Javadekar said.

Other highlights of the manifesto include welfare pension to be raised to ₹3,500 per month, a strict ban on the ‘Nokku Kooli’ and ‘Attimari Kooli’ (militant trade union practices in Kerala). It also promises to do away with the eligibility test prior to the main public service commission examination, besides restructuring Kerala Infrastructure Development Fund in line with constitutional provisions and be subjected to audit of theComptroller and Auditor General.
The manifesto said that all temples in the state should be taken out of the control of thestate government and be entrusted with believers, priests and religious leaders. The manifesto added that a special legislation will be brought in to protect the age-old customs of Sabarimala temple, which witnessed unrest three years ago when the government tried to implement the Supreme Court judgment removing bar on women of child-bearing age from entering the temple.

Similarly, a special law will be introduced on the lines of BJP-ruled states in north India to contain ‘love jihad,’ an alleged practice of enticing Hindu girls feigning love and later converting them. The term was first coined in the state after 21 people from north Kerala disappeared in 2016 and later believed to have joined the Islamic State in Syria. Among missing three women and two men were converts from other religions.
“In Kerala, many central programmes have been hijacked by the Left regime, which present them to people making slight changes. Most of the programmes are named differently to fool people,” the minister said.

Taking a jibe at the UDF and LDF, Javadekar said that in Kerala, the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were sworn enemies, but the two are friends in West Bengal. “It is hypocrisy: ‘Bengal mei dosti, Kerala mei kushti’,” he said.

“During the last Lok Sabha polls also, the BJP made big promises on Sabarimala. But it failed to do anything in two years. Even a school child knows the issue is before the Supreme Court. It is fooling believers,” said CPI(M) leader A Ananthan.

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