File photo: BJP president Amit Shah.
Thiruvananthapuram: BJP president Amit Shah, who has pledged his party's support to devotees protesting the entry of women of all ages into Ayyappa temple, has expressed wish to offer prayers at the hill shrine in Sabarimala during the annual pilgrim season starting on November 17, a party leader said Monday.
"The BJP president has expressed desire to visit the Sabarimala temple. But no decision has been taken so far," a senior Kerala unit BJP leader told PTI in Thiruvananthapuram.
Shah's wish to trek the hills comes days after he declared BJP's full support to the agitation by the devotees against CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front government's decision to implement the Supreme Court order lifting the ban on entry of women in 10-50 age group from offering prayers at the shrine.
In a scathing criticism of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for taking action against Sabarimala protesters, Shah last week claimed an "Emergency-like" situation was prevailing in the state and accused the government of "playing with fire".
If the state government does not stop hurting the devotees, BJP workers would be forced to bring it down, Shah said, drawing a strong reaction from Vijayan, who termed the BJP president's warning an "attack" on the Supreme Court, Constitution and the country's judicial system.
Police have arrested over 3,500 people till Sunday in connection with the protests that rocked the state earlier this month.
A large number of frenzied devotees staying put at the temple complex and base camps had prevented at least a dozen women of menstrual age from entering the temple when it opened for monthly pujas between October 17 and 22.
Protests were also held in several other parts of Kerala by the devotees, who included a large number of women, seeking to protect the tradition of the shrine whose deity, Lord Ayyappa, is celibate.
Intensifying the agitation, the BJP-led NDA Sunday announced a six-day 'Rath Yatra' from Kasaragod to Sabarimala from November 8 to save the customs and traditions of the famous temple.
Various other agitation programmes, including a fast in front of the state DGP's office Thiruvananthapuram, had also been planned.
The BJP is apparently seeing the Sabarimala issue as an opportunity to widen its support base in the southern state.
The party has so far failed to make a strong presence in the bi-polar polity in the state, dominated by the LDF and the opposition Congress-headed United Democratic Front (UDF).
In 2016 assembly polls, the BJP had scripted history by winning the Nemom seat, and garnered 14.65 per cent votes.