Kerala Chief Election Commissioner Teeka Ram Meena on Monday warned political parties in the state against using the Sabarimala temple matter in election campaigning, ANI reported.
“Citing or invoking or doing some sort of religious propaganda based on the Sabarimala issue or judgement will be a clear violation of the Model Code of Conduct and we will be taking action,” said Meena, a day after the Model Code of Conduct came into force. The polls will be held over seven phases, with the voting in the first phase to be held on April 11 and counting of votes for all phases to be held on May 23.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, however, said the directive was “illogical”. “It is 100% that the stand taken by the [state] government on Sabarimala issue will be discussed in the elections,” the party’s state general secretary K Surendran said. “No one can interfere in it.”
Surendran, however, added that speaking against the Supreme Court order or taking a stand against other religions during elections are against rules, PTI reported.
Kerala has 20 Lok Sabha seats and elections will be held in the state on April 23.
The entry of women of menstruating age into the Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala has been a contentious issue and the state witnessed widespread protests and violence after the Supreme Court’s verdict last year. On September 28, the top court announced that women of all ages would be allowed to enter the temple, overturning the centuries-old tradition that prohibited women in the age group of 10-50 from offering prayers there.
The ruling Left Democratic Front in the state, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), had announced its intention to implement the Supreme Court order, leading to further violence.
The temple will open on Monday for a 10-day-long annual festival, PTI reported. The Travancore Devaswom Board, which administers the shrine, said head priest Kandararu Rajeevaru will preside over the ceremony.
Several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, opposed to the entry of women, have raised the Sabarimala matter as part of their political campaign. Speaking in Palakkad last month, party chief Amit Shah claimed that the state government had “cheated” crores of Ayyappa devotees and that “atheist communists” have tried to deny justice to the believers.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath also claimed that a deliberate attempt was being made to insult Hindus in Sabarimala, just as in Ayodhya. “The verdict on Sabarimala is against the believers,” he had told party workers in Pathanamthitta on February 14. “The Hindu society is on a long wait for a favourable verdict in case of Ayodhya.”