Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Kerala Teeka Ram Meena is quite unlike any of his peers. He has rattled political parties by stretching the Model Code of Conduct to ensure clean and transparent campaigning for the Lok Sabha election. Soon after the Model Code of Conduct came into force, he ruffled the feathers of seasoned politicians by warning them against the use of names of gods to solicit votes, setting norms for a green protocol and asking candidates with criminal cases pending against them to let voters know details of the cases. His direction against religious propaganda has upset the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), which had drawn up elaborate plans to exploit the popular resentment over the Supreme Court verdict permitting the entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala temple and the haste with which the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, particularly Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, sought to enforce the verdict amid stiff opposition from devotees.
Only the LDF welcomed the move, as it has been fearing an electoral backlash for its unpopular course over the women's entry issue. At an all-party meet, Meena went a step further and declared that the poll panel would show no mercy towards political parties that invoke the name of not only Lord Ayyappa but also any other god for soliciting votes. Signalling that he means business, Meena ordered an inquiry into the alleged circulation of posters by the BJP showing pictures of Lord Ayyappa, the deity at the Sabarimala hill shrine, along with that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Acting on a complaint lodged by the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), he has warned stern action if the circular is found violated.
Furthermore, the CEO's direction to candidates facing criminal cases has caused huge discomfort to all the three major political formations as many of them are involved in criminal cases, ranging from murder to sexual harassment. The direction has come as a big embarrassment for the CPM since one of its candidates is charged with a murder conspiracy and two others are involved in land scams. The Congress has sought to avoid embarrassment by reconsidering its proposal to field leaders who have been accused of sexual abuse by Sarita Nair, a key suspect in the solar fraud case. While the Crime Branch has filed cases against MLAs Hibi Eden, Adoor Prakash and AP Anil Kumar in the run-up to the election for sexually exploiting the woman in reciprocation for political favours, Sarita has announced her intention to enter the fray if any of the accused, particularly former chief minister Oommen Chandy and All India Congress Committee general secretary KC Venugopal, are fielded to contest the election.
Tags : #Kerala #ChiefElectionOfficer #Ban #Religious #Propaganda #Green #Protocol