Kerala

District panchayat courts controversy with souvenir distribution

Controversy erupted in the Thiruvananthapuram district panchayat office on Tuesday after Youth Congress workers accused the local body authorities of violating the model code of conduct and staged a protest.

The activists also blocked a lorry in which a large bunch of souvenir books, which were published by the panchayat, was loaded for distribution.

The dramatic scenes unfolded around 12.30 p.m. after agitators accused the panchayat of illegally publishing souvenirs that were meant to be used as campaign materials of the Left Democratic Front (LDF). Finding that the books were being loaded in a lorry that carried an ‘on hospital duty’ board, the Youth Congress activists alleged that it was meant to conceal the operation.

On being alerted by panchayat officials, the Medical College police rushed to the spot and attempted to disperse the protesters. However, the agitators stood their ground and demanded an intervention by the State Election Commission. Adding to the tensed atmosphere, a group of BJP workers also gathered in the area.

Soon, a team led by Deputy Collector G.K. Suresh confiscated the souvenirs and the lorry and shifted them to the District Collectorate.

Reacting to the issue, V.K. Madhu, the outgoing chairman of the district panchayat, said that the souvenirs had been published well before the model code of conduct had come into effect.

“Similar to those that had been printed and distributed by other local bodies across the State, the souvenirs were meant to highlight the achievements of the panchayat during the last five years as a collective effort. It contained the photos of all 26 council members and projected the developmental initiatives that had been implemented in each of the 73 grama panchayats,” he said, while adding that the document did not make any mention of the LDF.

Attributing a delay in publishing the souvenirs to the confusion, Mr. Madhu added that the controversy was borne out of fear by the UDF that sensitising the public about the panchayat’s achievements would boost LDF’s prospects at the hustings.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 2:09:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/district-panchayat-courts-controversy-with-souvenir-distribution/article33173054.ece

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