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Home / India / Electoral officer warns in Kerala on Sabarimala

Electoral officer warns in Kerala on Sabarimala

If someone is misinterpreting the Supreme Court judgment, it is a clear violation of the model code of conduct, says official
The Supreme Court’s go-ahead for women to enter the Sabarimala temple had snowballed into a huge controversy.
The Supreme Court’s go-ahead for women to enter the Sabarimala temple had snowballed into a huge controversy.
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K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 11.03.19, 10:39 PM

The chief electoral officer of Kerala has made it clear that using the Sabarimala controversy for communal polarisation in the run-up to the April-May Lok Sabha polls would amount to a violation of the model code of conduct for the elections.

Teeka Ram Meena told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that no party would be allowed to leverage the temple divide, prevalent since the Supreme Court last year lifted all age restrictions on the entry of women.

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“If someone is misinterpreting the Supreme Court judgment, it is a clear violation of the model code of conduct,” Meena said on Monday, referring to the court’s September 28 ruling.

The officer, who was briefing the media on the model code of conduct, warned that police action would follow if any violations were reported to the Election Commission.

“It is a violation of the model code of conduct if someone gives a hate speech or resorts to character assassination using one’s religion or caste. Taking the name of God to invoke certain religious feelings is also a violation,” Meena said, adding that he would discuss the matter with all parties on Tuesday.

The BJP appeared in no mood to acquiesce. “No one has the right to say Sabarimala should not become an issue of debate. We will highlight the stand taken by the state government,” Kerala state BJP general secretary K. Surendran told reporters in Kottayam. “Election Commission officials should instead take effective measures to stop black money in elections.”

The commission has already warned parties against using photographs of defence personnel for election propaganda.

A former navy chief had written to the poll panel after BJP posters in several states featured an image of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, recently released by Pakistan after his fighter jet was shot down over its airspace.

The court’s go-ahead for women to enter the Sabarimala temple had snowballed into a huge controversy after the state’s Left-led government decided to enforce the ruling.

The BJP and the Congress had both welcomed the verdict at first but made a quick about-turn to oppose the state government. The BJP led a campaign that lasted more than two months, deploying cadres to ensure that no women of childbearing age entered the temple — though a few managed to with police help.

What followed was a duel between the state police and Sangh parivar activists, hundreds of whom were arrested for violating prohibitory orders and rioting.

On Sunday too, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological parent, had iterated its view, pointing to what it called a “systematic design to insult and hurt Hindu beliefs and traditions”.

“The case of the Sabarimala temple is a recent example of this design,” the Sangh said in a resolution.

Meena’s briefing came on a day the temple was set to reopen in the evening for a 10-day festival.

The Congress, which heads the Opposition UDF, welcomed the commission’s stand. “We welcome the warning. But we are a secular democratic party and we don’t invoke region, religion or caste,” Congress spokesperson Pandalam Sudhakaran told The Telegraph.

“I applaud the Election Commission, as the BJP is waiting to leverage the Sabarimala issue during the election. I hope some strong action would follow.”

M.V. Balakrishnan, Kasargod district secretary of the ruling CPM, said: “The UDF and the BJP lost their slogan. This is a major blow to the UDF and the BJP because they were obviously planning to get some votes invoking the Sabarimala issue.”

P.G. Sasikumara Varma, a senior representative of the erstwhile royal family of Pandalam that once ran the temple, declined comment.

“I cannot comment without checking what was said,” he told this newspaper.



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