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CEO Teeka Ram Meena sends out a warning, yet parties keen to use Sabarimala in poll campaign

The Sabarimala issue is almost sure to be discussed in detail in Kerala’s streets in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. 

Published: 14th March 2019 03:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th March 2019 03:45 AM   |  A+A-

Sabarimala

Sabarimala (File Photo | Manu R Mavelil, EPS)

By Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Sabarimala issue is almost sure to be discussed in detail in Kerala’s streets in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. 

That is the feeling one got from the all-party meeting convened by Chief Electorial Officer Teeka Ram Meena as various parties reiterated their stance, albeit in a toned-down manner. 

Speaking after the meeting, Meena said there is nothing wrong in politics and policies related to the Sabarimala issue being raised during the campaign.

But anything that amounts to cause religious enmity, hatred, division or that influences voters will be deemed as violation of the model code of conduct.

The BJP, which has been opposing the Election Commission’s directive, clarified it would raise the issue during the poll campaign, adhering to the latter’s guidelines. 

Though the Sabarimala issue would be used to expose the ruling government’s stance, the party is against projecting the same for religious polarisation, said BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai. 

EC against propaganda in places of worship

Chief Electorial Officer Teeka Ram Meena said the election commission would not entertain appeal on the basis of the electors’ caste/communal feeling. No activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred, or cause tension between different castes, communities, religious, linguistic groups shall be attempted.

Similarly, use of temples, mosques, churches or any place of worship for election propaganda, including speeches, posters, music, etc or electioneering will not be entertained. At the same time the parties are free to hold healthy debates on the policies and issues related to the Sabarimala, he said.
In short, the line differentiating the dos and don’ts is very thin. In reply to a question, Pillai said the BJP workers and leaders are aware of the extent to which the issue can be raised in public forums. The Sabarimala fiasco will be discussed in a way how issues like Ayodhya, triple talaq or Church Act are discussed in public sphere, he said.

While reiterating the CPM’s stance, Anathalavattom Anandan said if the BJP raises the issue for mere political gains, the party knows how to defend it. The Modi Government’s poor performance and the state government’s developmental activities would be the LDF’s main campaign themes.
KPCC General Secretary Thampanoor Ravi said all issues pertaining to the people can be used as campaign topics in the elections. The UDF will discuss the Sabarimala issue, abiding by the election commission’s guidelines, he said. All district collectors have been told to monitor the parties’ activities. Meena said any violation of the model code of conduct will strictly be dealt with. In short, there are chances for allegations, counter allegations and complaints being levelled against each other

Election officer has no business to encroach on prohibited zones

The State Election Commissioner’s reported statement imposing restriction on candidates discussing Sabarimala women’s entry issue is highly reprehensible. Legality and correctness of the said judgment are being discussed at all levels in the state. The unholy haste shown by the state government in the manner in which it procured some activists under the disguise of ‘devotees’ is also critically debated at various levels. The approach of the government towards Sabarimala issue and manner in which the state handled the situation after the SC order have worsened the situation.

Hence it is the Opposition’s duty to expose the government’s failure. Neither CEO nor the court has power to impose a blanket ban on the poll campaign. Ours is a country with the right to free speech and expression. If there is anything done by anyone promoting enmity between the different class of people, it will be an offence for which the police can register cases. The CEO no business to encroach on prohibited zone of citizens. Restricting fair criticism of government policy on Sabarimala women’s entry will be an infringement of right guaranteed under Art 19(1)(b) to a citizen including a candidate.
- T Asaf Ali, Former DG  Prosecutions

BJP locks horns with CEO

T’Puram : The BJP leaders on Wednesday locked horns with Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena at his office in Thiruvananthapuram. The lack of space at the office of the CEO provoked the BJP leaders who asked the CEO to make use of the various halls available in the building for the all-party meeting. In reply, the CEO made it clear they have no right to argue with him over the space constraints at his office. His remarks he was the boss in the office of the CEO and the leaders who come to attend the meeting have a responsibility to obey his instructions at the office provoked the BJP leaders.

The BJP leaders later alleged they were not given enough seats to sit in the office of the CEO and the CEO failed to speak to the leaders of the political parties with mutual respect. Though the media personnel were allowed to cover the event, when the issue snowballed into a controversy, the CEO asked the media to leave the room until the issues were sorted out.

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