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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Tamil Nadu government denies nod to ally BJP for rally on lines of rath yatra

While the BJP was making big preparations for the planned rally, opposition parties had protested against it.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Updated: November 6, 2020 4:42:06 am
Vetri Vel Yatra, Vetri Vel Yatra dates, BJP Vetri Vel Yatra, Tamil Nadu Vetri Vel Yatra, Tamil Nadu elections, TN govt on Vetri Vel Yatra, Indian ExpressTamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. (File Photo)

The Tamil Nadu government has decided to deny the state unit of ally BJP permission to take out a state-wide ‘Vel Yatra’, Advocate General Vijay Narayan informed the Madras High Court on Thursday.

The month-long rally, visiting six abodes of Lord Muruga and modelled on the rath yatra, was scheduled to begin November 6 from Tiruttani temple, in north of Tamil Nadu, and culminate at Tiruchendur temple, in the southern part of the state. The Vel Yatra is seen as an attempt by BJP to consolidate Hindu votes in the state.

While the BJP was making big preparations for the planned rally, opposition parties had protested against it.

On Thursday, the government informed the HC bench of Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy that it is in the process of finalising and communicating the rejection order to BJP leaders.

The court was hearing two PILs seeking a ban on the yatra. One of the petitioners argued that the yatra might disturb communal harmony, as it was scheduled to end on December 6, the day the Babri Masjid was demolished.

While the A-G cited the Covid-19 situation, and a government order (GO) issued against assembly of crowd to prevent spread of the infection, as reason for not giving a nod for the yatra, he also said, “There are certainly other overtones, too, to the yatra.” This was a likely reference to concerns of communal tensions being fanned by the yatra.

Tamil Nadu BJP secretary L Murugan, who was to lead the yatra, had on October 15 approached DGP J K Tripathy, seeking permission. The DGP had asked the party to approach SPs and Commissioners of Police in respective districts for permission and issued directions to give consent considering local conditions.

On Thursday, the state government decided against issuing permission for the entire tour. “As per a government order [GO] dated October 31, religious, social and political gatherings would be permitted with not more than 100 people only after November 15,” A-G Narayan said.

The BJP’s lawyer contended that the state government is not above the law, and has to follow the Centre’s guidelines permitting religious congregations. But the bench said such a stand cannot be taken in view of the October 31 GO.

The BJP side told the court that the rally was going to be on the move, without gatherings. The bench, however, refused to accept such “oral submissions” and said the state government may pass appropriate orders on the request for permission. It said the aggrieved party is free to approach the court challenging the government’s decision.

On Thursday, state minister and senior AIADMK leader D Jayakumar said permission for Vel Yatra was declined to ensure there is no second wave of coronavirus in Tamil Nadu, and warned that violators will face action. “The government is responsible to protect the people, and thus realised that the rally was not necessary. In the interests of the people, they (BJP) should realise this fact and give up the yatra,” he said.

Earlier, the AIADMK government had denied BJP permission for an idol immersion rally during the Vinayaga Chathurthi celebrations.

The state government’s recent decision to take the executive route and pass a GO for 7.5 per cent reservation for government school students in medical admissions was also seen as a face-off between the two parties, as Governor Banwarilal Purohit had delayed giving his assent to the Bill, unanimously passed in Assembly. A day after the GO, Purohit gave his assent.

More recently, the proposed Vel Yatra had sparked a round of conflict after one of its many music videos, which project BJP’s Murugan as the future leader of Tamil Nadu armed with the blessings of Lord Muruga, had used the picture of AIADMK founder and matinee idol M G Ramachandran. Minister Jayakumar had asked BJP to use its own leader’s picture for party’s political campaigns. “Don’t they have a leader of their own,” he had asked, and remarked that no other party has the “moral right to use MGR’s image”.

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