THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : Kerala’s chief election commissioner Teeka Ram Meena on Monday came out strongly against political parties using the controversial Sabarimala temple issue for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and said any such act will be seen as a violation of the election code of conduct and invite punishment.

The temple issue cannot be exploited blatantly to garner votes, Meena said. “Using Sabarimala issue for poll campaigning is the violation of the code. Specific directions will be issued to political parties after a meeting with them (on Tuesday)," he said, reported Hindustan Times.

"Campaign in the name of God or religion will not be entertained. All digital contents posted by political parties or candidates will also fall under the purview of the code of conduct," he added.

The move, coming a day after the code of conduct came into force, was welcomed by the two major parties in Kerala, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Congress, but has bristled some Bharatiya Janata Party leaders. The party, which hopes the temple issue to increase its vote share in some pockets, had seen this coming though, its state unit president Sreedharan Pillai said last week that "Sabarimala is not a campaign weapon (of the BJP)".

Reacting to the news, K. Surendran, who is speculated to be the BJP candidate at the nerve center of Sabarimala protests in Pathanamthitta, hit out against the Kerala CEC. "The election commission has no authority to say that. The state governments actions against the believers in the temple will be discussed in the polls," he told reporters.

Kerala goes to polls on 23 April. The temple's ban on menstruating age women was struck down by the Supreme Court last year, and the ruling CPM pledged ideological support and tried to implement it against protests from the believers. The ruling BJP held several protests, some turned violent, all of which is expected to be a wedge issue between the two parties in the polls. 

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