"Political parties need not teach District Collectors the model code of conduct", Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena said Sunday in response to issue of notice to Thrissur NDA candidate Suresh Gopi allegedly seeking votes in the name of Lord Ayyappa. He was responding to the state BJP leadership terming as 'utter nonsense,' the action of Thrissur District Collector V T Anupama issuing notice to the actor-turned-politician.
Anupama had on Saturday sought an explanation within 48 hours from actor turned politician Suresh Gopi for allegedly invoking Lord Ayyappa during his speech after a roadshow campaign on Friday. "I am seeking votes in the backdrop of Sabarimala. My Ayyan (lord Ayyappa), our Ayyan, if our Ayyan is an emotion for us, this brutal government will be given a befitting reply by the people of Kerala," Gopi was seen saying in a video.
However, he also said he would not discuss the Sabarimala issue during his campaign.
Sabarimala had witnessed intense protests in December last year against the LDF government's decision to implement the landmark September 28, 2018, Supreme Court verdict, permitting women of all age groups into the hill shrine.
Traditionally, women of menstruating age or in the age group of 10 to 50 years were not allowed to enter the temple as the deity, Lord Ayyappa, was a "Naishtika brahmachari" (perennial celibate). "The Collector had sent the notice after properly studying the issue. If Suresh Gopi has any grievances over the notice, he can express that in the explanation letter.
Political parties need not teach collectors about the model code of conduct. The district collectors, who are the returning officers, are well-versed in the model code of conduct," Meena told a news channel.
Asked about the issue of notice to him, Suresh Gopi said the people would respond to it. "Look at the plight of a devotee. One cannot even use the name of his favourite God. What sort of democracy is this? People will deal with this," he told reporters Sunday.
The state BJP leadership came down heavily on the issue of notice, alleging that the Collector was acting as a slave of the Pinarayi Vijayan government. "The act of the collector is utter nonsense and shows her ignorance.
The collector was acting as a slave of the Pinarayi government," BJP leader B Gopalakrishnan told reporters. Gopi was chosen as the candidate on Tuesday after NDA's ally BDJS chief Thushar Vellapally was fielded in Wayanad against Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
(With inputs from agencies.)