Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena on Friday said caste and religious organisations, which are apolitical, should not cross the "Lakshman Rekha" and canvass for votes in the October 21 by-polls to the five Assembly constituencies in Kerala. Talking to reporters here, Meena said any outfit be it the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), an organisation of the backward Ezhava community, the Nair Service Society (NSS) of the influential Nair community or religious organizations should not be doing anything which is not their objective. It was against the election protocol for caste-based and religious organizations to publicly woo voters during elections, he said.
When the model code of conduct is in place, nobody should invoke caste or religion which is likely to cause disharmony and such activities are prohibited, Meena said. "We will investigate if they are crossing the limits, the Lakshman Rekha," he said.
When asked about the allegation that NSS was openly canvassing votes for the UDF candidate at Vattiyoorkavu, Meena wanted to know why the organization had decided to deviate from its earlier "equidistance" policy to "right distance" policy now?
The NSS had recently called on its members to maintain the "right distance" in the by-polls, a deviation from its long-held stand of maintaining "equidistance" from all political parties and fronts. However, during the present by-polls, it has decided to maintain the "right distance", claiming to protect democracy, secularism, customs and traditions, which is likely to favour the UDF.
This change in NSS's stance is seen as its discontent over the government's stand on the Sabarimala issue, where it decided to implement the apex court verdict allowing women of all age groups to offer worship at the shrine.
Meena said though there was nothing wrong in raising the Sabarimala issue during the polls, however, seeking votes in the name of Gods-- Lord Ayyappa, Lord Rama or Christ was not right.
"All political parties should do some introspection...Why should they go and fall at the feet of the caste outfits?" he asked.
The CEO said he had not yet received any complaint regarding the NSS openly canvassing for the UDF candidate in Vattiyoorkavu. On complaints by two MPs regarding discrepancies in the voters' list, he said "we want the electoral rolls to be "error-free" and all officials should take any complaints seriously." The by-polls are being held in Vattiyoorkkavu, Konni, Ernakulam, Aroor and Manjeswaram.