The Election Commission of India has warned action against candidates if they use religious institutions to canvass for themselves during next month’s Assembly elections in Goa, a senior official said on Tuesday. “The ECI has said the religious institutions can guide people on ethical voting but will not be allowed to be used during campaigning for any candidate or party.
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“Action would be initiated against the candidate if he is found to be using the religious platform for campaigning,” Goa Joint Chief Electoral Officer Narayan Navti told reporters. Goa is going to polls on February 4. “Any social, cultural or religious organisation making appeals to electorates during the poll period amounting to in favour or against certain parties or candidates by holding meeting or procession is barred.
“If it is done, these organisations are evoking religious sentiments of voters to whom such appeal is addressed,” the officer said. He said the ECI has instructed that the programmes of such persons or organisations should be closely monitored through videography. The Joint CEO said if anyone indulges in the violation of these guidelines, the law enforcement agencies should take appropriate remedial or penal action against the organisations or the candidates.
Responding to a query, Navti said preaching in churches is not videographed as “they are preaching about ethical voting. We have written to various heads of all religions that they should preach on ethical voting. But they cannot direct the voters whom to vote.” He said the ECI has allowed the use of educational institution premises for political campaigns during the polls but with several riders.
“The premises of educational institution can be used provided they don’t disturb the academic calendar or the management has no objection and prior permission is taken from the District Magistrate,” Navti said, adding no political party will be allowed to monopolise the use of ground.
A recent Supreme Court judgement had termed as illegal seeking votes in the name of religion. Last month, a controversy was erupted after the Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Filipe Neri Ferrao had said that the Church issues guidelines for the faithful on how to exercise their franchise. He, however, had clarified that Church would not canvass for any candidate or the party.
Following Ferrao’s remarks, Shiv Sena, which is in electoral fray, had accused him of “interfering” in poll process. Ferrao’s comments also drew ire of RSS rebel Subhash Velingkar whose Goa Suraksha Manch is also contesting polls.
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