Thrissur District Collector TV Anupama, who is also the district election officer, has sought an explanation from Suresh Gopi, actor-turned-politician and BJP candidate from Thrissur Lok Sabha seat in Kerala, for his alleged appeal for votes by invoking the name of Lord Ayyappa, during a campaign meeting.

The collector, in her notice, said Suresh Gopi had made the alleged appeal at an election campaign meeting at Thekkinkadu Maidan in Thrissur on Friday, and asked him to submit an explanation within 48 hours.

The collector, in her notice, said as per the video footage of the speech, Suresh Gopi said he was appealing for votes in the backdrop of the Sabarimala issue. He said the “brutal government” would get a befitting reply not only in Kerala but across the country. However, he also stated that he would not make Sabarimala a poll issue. The audience can be heard chanting “Saranam Ayyappa” when he mentioned the name of Ayyappa, the collector said in the notice.

Anupama has submitted a report to Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Teeka Ram Meena in which she said she found that Suresh Gopi had prima facie violated the model of conduct by allegedly using religious motifs to garner votes.

At the campaign meeting on Friday, Suresh Gopi had said, “If my Ayyan…
our Ayyan… if that Ayyan is my emotion, the brutal government will get a befitting reply this election. The Ayyappa devotees across India will turn it into a wave.” He however added that he would not make Sabarimala a poll issue.

Earlier, a day after the Election Commission announced the election schedule, Teeka Ram Meena, the Chief Election Officer of Kerala, had stated that the issue of Sabarimala could not be used to evoke the sentiments of the public and thus to appeal for votes.

In this connection, Suresh Gopi said he did not violate the Model Code of Conduct and added that the party would reply to the collector’s notice.

Reacting to the collector’s notice to Suresh Gopi, BJP leader B Gopalakrishnan said the BJP would continue to raise the Sabarimala issue during the poll campaign. “The Collector’s notice to Suresh Gopi was stupid and absurd. She is either CPI-M government’s servant or did this out of ignorance or for
fame,” Gopalakrishnan said in Trissur, adding: “First, let the collector learn what the Model Code of Conduct is.”

Meanwhile, Teeka Ram Meena came out in support of the Thrissur Collector saying Suresh Gopi’s act of invoking Ayyappa’s name for votes was prima facie a violation of the guidelines under the Model Code of Conduct. “The Collector is well aware of what the MCC guidelines are. Political parties need not teach
her that. The Returning Officer issued the notice after she was convinced
it was a violation of the MCC. Let Suresh Gopi respond to the notice and the Returning Officer will give the appropriate answer,” he said.