Kochi: Till now, it has been the Sabarimala issue that threw political parties into a quandary: if they support women's entry, devotees would turn away; if they oppose it, that would go against a court verdict. Therefore, even those who by habit were not keen on being firm on any issue, were forced to take a position either way.
Thus the Congress first welcomed it, but then went back on that. Later, when Sonia and Rahul supported women's entry, the Congress looked like a party with a stance of having no stance. Even those who were opposed to it, did not go much far in fear of the court.
Now here is another hot potato thrown before them in the form of Narendra Modi government's economic reservation bill, that is in for two opinions in parties as well as in alliances. But this time around, instead of the court, it is - much to their relief - it is Modi on the other side. If they are against it, they criticise vehemently. Others welcome it with open heart. But still there are some who are at a loss what to say.
In the approach to the bill providing for 10 per cent reservation for economically backward among socially and educationally backward communities, there some enemies who come together and friends who differ. Chief Minister was one among the first to welcome it, and that was supported by party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, and ministers AK Balan and EP Jayarajan. But the CPM, as a party, softpedalled on its support saying that it should be implemented only after detailed discussions.
However, former chief minister VS Achuthanandan, as is his wont, came out with his voice of dissent. He said reservation is not a financial scheme to help the poor, thereby putting the party in a trap.
Also notable is the fact that Nair Service Society (NSS) that has been making war cries against the CPM on Sabarimala, came in agreement with the latter on economic reservation. NSS secretary general said that the will power and determination of the Central government was visible on this lone decision.
However, SNDP leader Vellappally Natesan, who was in the forefront of the LDF-initiated Women's Wall, cannot see eye to eye with CPM on reservation. He said that the decision deceives the backward communities.
As for the Congress, they initially welcomed it, as in Sabarimala women's entry but later toned it down with a charge that it is a gimmick on the people. Further within the UDF, while KM Mani opined that economic reservation was long overdue, Muslim League leader MKP Majeed has openly vowed to defeat the bill.
CPI, a close ally of CPM fell short of blindly welcoming the bill. In the response of party secretary Kanam Rajendran there was visible caution when he said that economic reservation is acceptable, if it is without impairing the existing communal reservation. On another front, Indian National League (INL) is clearly opposed to economic reservation.
In short, across the divide of ruling and opposition fronts, parties are diagonally divided over the reservation bill. Even in the coalition that put up the women's wall there is no unanimity of opinion. Observers are keenly watching to see whether, as it happened in Sabarimala issue, such differences will grow into a hot issue in the public.