Invoking Sabarimala temple during campaigning to be considered as violation of election code of conduct

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New Delhi: Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Kerala Teeka Ram Meena said that political parties can raise Sabarimala temple as a social issue but can’t invoke Lord Ayyappa, presiding deity, for votes. Two days after he warned political parties that invoking the Sabarimala temple during campaigning would be considered as violation of election code of conduct.

Meena’s clarification at a meeting with political parties came after protests by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting there was a heated exchange between the CEO and BJP representatives. But later BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said discussions were fruitful and Sabarimala issue can be taken up as a political and social issue and party leaders know how not to cross the ‘lakshman rekha’.

The CEO emphasised on three points of the model code of conduct. First, no one can appeal on the basis of the caste and community, secondly no activity which may aggravate the existing differences and create mutual hatred and finally temples, churches, mosques and gurudwaras should not be used during the campaigning.

“The elections are the biggest secular exercise aimed at strengthening democracy of the country. All these directives were already there but I just reminded parties about them,” he said adding curbing hate speeches and slogans were his top priority.

Earlier, BJP and Congress had criticised his gag order on Sabarimala. BJP leaders had said there was no logic to his argument that a particular case which made deep impression in the minds of a large section of the people should not be a point of debate. “The directive not use the Sabarimala issue during poll is baseless. The issue being raised here is that of freedom of religion,” said former Governor of Mizoram Kummanam Rajasekharan who is set to contest against the two-time sitting Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram.

 

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