India's opposition nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has declared its support for a top court verdict which ruled that gay sex is illegal, and liable for life in jail.

Puncturing the bubble of protests that have rocked India since the Supreme Court gave its order last week, the BJP after initially hesitating to make known its stand came out strongly against gay sex.

BJP president Rajnath Singh made it clear that his party was of the view that gay sex "is an unnatural act that cannot be supported".

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Singh's colleague and vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi backed him saying that Indian culture and tradition did not allow gay sex, and that they would oppose what he called "western influence" on this issue.

The court, in its ruling, had stated that it was the prerogative of the parliament to amend the existing law if it so felt.

The ruling Congress party has taken a firm stance in support of gay rights. The chief of the party Sonia Gandhi regretted that the Supreme Court had reversed an earlier verdict of a lower court which had "wisely removed an archaic, repressive and unjust law that infringed on the basic human rights enshrined in the Constitution."

Gandhi's son and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had said "matters of personal freedom should be left to individuals... I think I would agree more with the high court… The country is known for its freedom of expression".

The BJP leadership appears to have taken the stand against gay rights and in support of the apex court verdict in a calculated move not to ruffle its vote base. The party, which is backed by conservative sections among the Indian electorate is gearing up for national elections in a few months.

Interestingly, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi who has articulated on a wide range of subjects has kept silent on the issue.

A moderate section of the BJP had attempted to play it cautiously, including its leader in parliament Sushma Swaraj, by neither opposing nor supporting the court verdict.

Any change to the court verdict needs to be done in parliament, but Congress does not have majority and is dependant on its allies.

The Congress-led government had suggested a way out by promulgating an ordinance restoring legality to gay sex. The ordinance, if passed, would be valid for six months and in that period would have to be ratified by parliament.

Source: Al Jazeera