Lok Sabha Election 2019

Kerala’s political parties agree to avoid incendiary, divisive rhetoric during Lok Sabha campaign

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The delegates of major political parties agreed not to ratchet up schismatic topics relating to religion and places of worship to chase votes, notably Sabarimala, during the campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.

This decision was taken at the all-party meeting called by Kerala’s Chief Electoral Officer, Teeka Ram Meena, on Wednesday, to curb campaigning on communally divisive issues.

However, the BJP interpreted the consensus as consent to raise the argument that “faith and custom were violated at Sabarimala with Government support” as a poll issue without hurting religious sentiments, fanning communal passions or undermining public peace.

BJP State president P. Sreedharan Pillai said political parties could discuss Sabarimala like Babri Masjid, Triple Talaq Bill and the proposed Church Act without causing hurt to anyone. “But we have no right to seek votes in the name Sabarimala Dharma Sastha. If we use the picture of Sabarimala temple or the diety for campaigning, the election would be declared null and void”, he said. Thampanoor Ravi of the Congress echoed a similar sentiment while Anathalavattom Anandan of the CPM said the CEO had reminded parties that they should keep religion out of electoral politics.

Mr. Meena later clarified that Sabarimala was a temple and any attempt to solicit votes in its name would be construed as a corrupt electoral practice and attract prosecution under the law.

He said the law explicitly banned the use of temples, mosques, churches, gurudwara or any other place worship to woo votes. Religious images have no place on election posters or other campaign material.

Elections are a secular process, and no one is allowed use religious or communal symbols to seek votes. Any appeal to voters on caste or communal basis is illegal.

Tech for campaign violations

Mr. Meena also announced the launch of Android-based mobile phone application, C-Vigil, to empower the public to report campaign violations as pictures, video, audio or text messages, to the concerned returning officer in real time.

The app would provide the CEO with untampered and well-documented evidence to take action against those who breach the model code of conduct (MCC).

Election officers would know the geospatial location of the violators from the app and help them apprehend the offenders red-handed. Mr. Meena said the app would help the CEO crack down on hate speech and incendiary rhetoric during the campaign phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 10:44:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/keralas-political-parties-agree-to-avoid-incendiary-divisive-rhetoric-during-lok-sabha-campaign/article26521491.ece

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