TO EXPRESS support for the “Black Day” called by their party in Kerala against the entry of two women in their 40s in the Sabarimala temple, Congress MPs from the state made a bid to wear black arm bands in Lok Sabha — only to be foiled by their former president Sonia Gandhi.

On Wednesday afternoon, hours after it was confirmed that the two women had entered the shrine, the MPs brought the arm bands with them to the Lok Sabha chamber.

Sources told The Indian Express that as soon as the UPA chairperson saw one of the MPs distributing the bands, she told them not to proceed, saying the Congress stands for “gender equality and women’s rights”.

“She told the MPs that they could continue their protests in Kerala as part of their local politics. But at the national level, the MPs should not protest against women entering the temple, because it would go against what the Congress stands for — gender equality and women rights,” said sources.

The party currently has seven MPs from Kerala in the Lok Sabha. Ever since the Supreme Court lifted the traditional age-linked gender bar at the hill shrine three months ago, the Congress has been trying to strike a political balance on the issue.

In Kerala, the party has opposed the CPM-led government’s support for the entry of women of all ages in the temple and demanded that the state file a review petition in the Supreme Court.

The party’s Kerala chief and Lok Sabha MP Mullappally Ramachandran has alleged that the entry of the two women in the shrine was “an operation meticulously planned and executed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan” whom he accused of “trying to “divide the Hindu vote bank by sending the upper castes to the BJP fold.”

At the national level, however, it has officially supported the Supreme Court verdict, with president Rahul Gandhi publicly backing the entry of women of all ages in Sabarimala.

On Thursday, the women’s entry sparked violent protests in Kerala for the second consecutive day with Hindu organisations backed by the BJP and RSS targeting shops, vehicles and public property. Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala blamed Vijayan for the violence and accused him of “creating a platform for the BJP and Sangh Parivar”.