Thiruvananthapuram: The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Teeka Ram Meena on Wednesday made it amply clear to representatives of political parties at the all-party meeting that the Election Commission would take strong action against candidates invoking the name of Lord Ayyappa or any other God for soliciting votes.
Speeches, posters, campaign material, video and audio clips inciting violence or spreading hate will be dealt with strictly, he told mediapersons.
He said the model code of conduct clearly stipulated the following things; “No appeal on the bases of caste or communal feelings of the electors should be made. No activity which may aggravate existing differences, or create mutual hatred. Don’t cause tension between castes, communities, religious and linguistic groups. They should not do any activity which aggravates the law and order problem. No use of temples mosques, churches or gurudwaras or any place of worship for election propaganda including speech , poster, music or electioneering.”
The 1951 Representation of Peoples Act 123 A states – “Anybody using caste community or provoking such feelings is a corrupt practice.”
Mr Meena said the election process is a secular process.
The Supreme Court judgment in Abhiram Singh case in 2017 had clearly stated that nobody should use caste, community for votes.
On BJP’s statement that it would raise Sabarimala as an election issue, the CEO said that political discussion on the issue had not been banned.
“They are free to discuss issues. But you should not invoke Lord Ayyappa’s name to solicit votes,” he said.
He said each case will be examined on the basis of the reports received from Collectors.
In such case he would send a report to Election Commission with his remarks.
Apart from issuing notices, cases would be registered under various sections of IPC, if the situation warrants so.
Parties happy, BJP to raise issues related to devotees
Representatives of ruling and Opposition fronts agreed with the CEO directive against using Sabarimala for votes.
BJP state president Sreedharan Pillai said his party will not invoke Lord Ayyapan for votes. However, the BJP will raise the issue of devotees and the manner in which they were handled by the government.
“We got a clarification on the issue from the CEO. There is no bar on raising Sabarimala as a political and election issue. The model code of conduct only prevents political parties from using religion or invoking God for soliciting votes. We don’t intend to seek votes in the name of Lord Ayyappa,” the BJP leader said.
The CPM welcomed CEO decision. “Let the BJP allow Ayyappa to stay in peace and they should not drag his name for electoral gains, said Anathalavattom Anandam. He said the LDF will turn the Sabarimala issue in its favour. “Our government has taken lot of initiatives to provide facilities to Sabarimala devotees. On the other hand the RSS BJP tried to prevent people from contributing funds for the temple and block offerings,” he said.
The LDF agreed to the appeal made by CEO on Sabarimala issue. “We are focusing on the Modi government’s failures in the past five years. The issue of mis-governance, demonetisation, GST, jobs, 15 lakh in each person’s bank account would be raised prominently,” Mr Anathalavattom said.
Congress leader Thampanoor Ravi said the UDF will focus on the failures of Modi government and LDF government. While discussing the LDF’s performance, the Sabarimala issue will come in for discussion.
“Sabarimala issue is not the only issue. All state and national issues will be discussed. We are not ready to violate the model code of conduct. All discussion will be carried out within the frame work of model code of conduct,” he added.
Earlier the meeting started on a sour note with BJP state president Sreedharan Pillai and CEO Teeka Ram Meena arguing over space in the office. Pillai and Padmakumar had to wait outside the office for some time.
The CEO clarified that his office was functioning out of legislative complex building and there were limited facilities. However, the BJP leaders insisted that the meeting should have been in a bigger hall.
Mr Meena took strong exception to the manner in which BJP leaders spoke. “This is my office I am the boss here. You cannot shout at me in my office,” the CEO told BJP leaders. However, later the matters were resolved and meeting went on smoothly....