Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena on Friday cautioned community organisations and political parties against playing the caste card to seek votes in elections. Caste, community, and religion should not be used to transform elections into ‘battlefields,’ he said.
The Nair Service Society’s (NSS) policy of equidistance had been the right approach. The trouble began when the policy changed into one of ‘right distance,’ he said, reacting to the CPI(M) allegation that the NSS was using caste to seek votes for the Congress candidate in Vattiyurkavu, one of five Assembly segments that are going to polls on October 21.
Mr. Meena, while addressing a meet-the-press programme organised by the Thiruvananthapuram Press Club, said he was yet to see the CPI(M) complaint in this regard.
The Model Code of Conduct (MCC), which is meant to ensure a level playing field, laid down clear guidelines for caste and religion-based organisations in this regard, he pointed out. Section 3.8.2 states; “Nobody should invoke, in any manner, religion or religious grounds in any manner, or any activities likely to create disharmony among different classes or groups of people, in his campaign.”
“Do the bylaws or constitutions of these (community) organisations state that they would engage in political activity? They are all apolitical organisations. If their bylaws indeed mention politics, they should get registered as political organisations,” he said.
Political parties should introspect whether they should “go and fall at the feet of caste outfits,” Mr. Meena said.
“On moral terms, if they promote such activities, it would not be a political activity. It will be a caste election,” he said, recalling that it was Kerala which set a model for the entire country by introducing a 10-point model code in 1960.
Sabarimala could be part of the discussions in the upcoming byelections, but the name of god should not be invoked to seek votes, he said.
The Election Commission had detected 257 cases of double entries (duplicate voters) in the electoral rolls in Vattiyurkavu, the CEO said. He was responding to K. Muraleedharan, MP’s, complaint that duplicate voters numbered 15,000 in Vattiyurkavu.
According to Mr. Meena, the commission had identified 257 cases under the category of ASD (Absent, Shifted or Dead). In Konni also, the commission had come across the problem of double entries, he said.
Duplication of names on voters’ lists could occur when a voter who had shifted, on failing to find his name on the list in a particular constituency, reapply online. Legally, filing multiple applications amounted to violation. The commission planned to initiate measures to curb the malpractice, he said.
Voting would be held from 7 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. for the October 21 bypolls to Manjeswaram, Ernakulam, Aroor, Konni and Vattiyurkavu, Mr. Meena said. In all, there were 35 candidates, 9,57,509 voters and 896 polling stations.
The number of voters in the five constituencies have risen by 12,780 from the time of the Lok Sabha elections. There are also 1,732 service voters.