At Government Lower Primary School, Pozhiyoor, the only signs of an election-related commotion on polling day on Thursday were when the police prevented M.T. Stephen, who was suspended from his priestly duties by the Latin Catholic Church for contesting the polls, from repeatedly entering the polling station.
Fr. Stephen, an Independent candidate, argued that he had returned after voting only to help his mother, Thankamma, to cast her vote.
“Is this what they call a democratic set-up? Can’t a son help his visually challenged mother to cast her vote?” asked the priest.
With the police and the polling officials finally agreeing to allow him to accompany his mother till the door of the booth, he calmed down.
Later, Fr. Stephen said the stand-off with the church was just ‘short-term,’ and his attempt was to serve the people. Archbishop of the Thiruvananthpuram Archdiocese of the Latin Catholic Church M. Susaipakiam had suspended Fr. Stephen from priesthood for a year, stating that the latter’s decision to contest the polls was in violation of the laws of the church, and disregarding a directive from the Archbishop. Fr. Stephen had replied that as per the canon law, he did not have to seek permission to contest elections but would only have to seek permission from the Archbishop if he won the polls and had to take an oath of office.