Election Commission officials on Saturday sought an explanation from actor-turned-politician and NDA candidate in Thrissur Parliament seat, Suresh Gopi, for his alleged appeal for votes by invoking the name of the god Ayyappa, during a campaign meeting. District collector TV Anupama, who is also the district election officer, has directed Suresh Gopi to submit an explanation within 48 hours. The collector, in her notice, said the candidate had made the alleged appeal at an election campaign meeting at Thekkinkadu Maidan in Thrissur on Friday.
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Teeka Ram Meena had explicitly stated earlier that none of the candidates contesting in elections should campaign by invoking the name of Ayyappa. He had made this clarification in the wake of the widespread protests, supported by Sangh Parivar outfits, against the state government’s move to implement the Supreme Court order to permit women of all ages to the Sabarimala temple. The CEO had recalled that invoking religion and religious symbols for election campaign was against the model code of conduct for elections.
The collector, in her notice, disclosed that as per the video footage of the speech, Suresh Gopi had said that he was appealing for votes in the backdrop of the Sabarimala issue. He said that the “brutal government’’ will get a befitting reply not only in Kerala but across the country. However, he had also stated that he will not make Sabarimala a poll issue. The audience can be heard chanting “Saranam Ayyappa’’ when he mentions the name of Ayyappa, the collector recalled in the notice.
Meanwhile, the BJP state spokesperson Advocate B Gopalakrishnan condemned the notice issued by the district election officer against Suresh Gopi. He said the BJP will continue to raise the Sabarimala issue during the poll campaign.
A day after the Chief Election Commissioner announced the election schedule on March 10, the CEO had said, “Sabarimala can be used politically, but it can’t be used to instigate the religious feelings particularly that of Hindus; that will not be accepted. It shouldn’t be given a religious dimension, or used to invoke sentiments of a particular religious community or a particular religious group or against another group or political party.”
Suresh Gopi was chosen as the Thrissur candidate on Tuesday after NDA’s coalition party BDJS chief Thushar Vellapally was rescheduled the Wayanad seat.