New Delhi: After facing flak over his inflammatory remarks that the Sabarimala head priest had consulted him before threatening the closure of the Lord Ayyappa shrine, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state unit chief PS Sreedharan Pillai made a complete u-turn and said that someone else in the tantri’s family had sought his views. The BJP leader, who is on a ‘Save Sabarimala Rath Yatra’ had earlier claimed that Kandararu Rajeevaru (head priest) had called him to discuss the shutting the doors of the shrine if women aged between 10 and 50 entered its sanctum sanctorum.

However, on Saturday, he made a complete volte-face and said,”What I meant was that someone in the tantri’s (head priest) family had called him to seek clarification and not the tantri.  Since the head priest has clarified that he had not called him up, there is no need to doubt it.” (Case Against Kerala BJP Chief For Claiming ‘Sabarimala Agitation Was Almost Planned by Party’)

Notably, the BJP leader had made the controversial remarks during a meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in Kozhikode on November 4, but the audio clip emerged on Monday, the day the shrine opened for the ‘Chithira Aattaviseshom’ festival. In the video, Pillai also was heard claiming that he had advised the temple’s head priest, that ‘locking’ the shrine’s nada, or doors to sanctum sanctorum, would “not amount to contempt of court”.

The Sabarimala Temple and surrounding areas witnessed a string of protests recently over the Supreme Court’s decision to quash restrictions on the entry of females of menstruating age, between 10 and 50 years, into the shrine.

Both temple authorities and protesters stopped 15 women from the 10-50 age group from praying at the Lord Ayyappa shrine in October and November despite a September 28 Supreme Court ruling.  Between October 17 and 22 and again in November when the temple opened for a day, women devotees faced stiff resistance at Sabarimala. Ahead of the next pilgrimage, the apex court on November 13 will hear a batch of petitions against its September verdict.