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Thursday, Oct 24, 2019

Under fire from parties, Kerala poll officer clarifies Sabarimala order

The Kerala Chief Electoral Officer’s gag order on Monday had raised the hackles of the BJP and the Congress.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2019 20:21 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Devotees celebrate Makaravilakku day in Sabarimala  in January.
Devotees celebrate Makaravilakku day in Sabarimala in January. (PTI)

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

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’.

Also read: ‘Don’t use Sabarimala for votes,’ Kerala poll officer warns parties

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.

First Published: Mar 13, 2019 20:21 IST

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