When members of the Thiruvananthapuram Congress recently came up with a poster on the various books published by party candidate Shashi Tharoor, including one called Why Am I A Hindu, they probably did not expect it to spark a political controversy. But things can flare up rapidly during election season, and Mr Tharoor has now been accused by the Kerala BJP of violating the Model Code of Conduct ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
"The very title of the book and its display on the election poster is an open declaration by the candidate that he is Hindu. This is a subtle attempt aimed at exploiting Hindu religious sentiments. This is a gross violation of election rules and the Model Code of Conduct. Significantly, the poster was published and publicised after the election notification," a complaint filed by the state BJP with the Chief Electoral Officer in Thiruvananthapuram read.
The BJP's action seemed to amuse the Congress parliamentarian. "This is hilarious! It is not even an election poster, doesn't ask anyone to vote for me, and was issued before I was even declared as a candidate. It features covers of several books, of which #WhyIAmAHindu was published in January 2018. Meanwhile the BJP's communal appeals are everywhere!" he tweeted soon after the controversy erupted.
BJP has filed a complaint with Chief Electoral Officer against congress candidate @ShashiTharoor alleging violation of model code of conduct. Saying "posters with books like Why Am I A Hindu is an attempt to exploit Hindu religious sentiments. @ndtvhttps://t.co/tkcw5euRhq— Sneha Koshy (@SnehaMKoshy) March 19, 2019
Incidentally, Mr Tharoor had taken on a gigantic billboard of Kummanam Rajasekharan, former Mizoram Governor and likely BJP candidate from Thiruvananthapuram, three days ago. "The BJP campaign has begun in Thiruvananthapuram by blithely ignoring Election Commission rules not to use places of worship on posters! This was found 150 metres away from the Padmanabhaswamy temple, which is shown behind their candidate. But without religious appeals, what can BJP offer?" he tweeted. A photograph of the billboard was attached.
The BJP campaign has begun in Thiruvananthapuram by blithely ignoring Election Commission rules not to use places of worship in posters! This is 150metres away from Padmanabhaswamy temple, which is shown behind their candidate. But without religious appeals what can BJP offer? pic.twitter.com/mMKoU0shhW— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) March 17, 2019
BJP district president S Suresh insisted that the two instances cannot be compared. "The hoardings that showed Kummanam Rajasekharan were put up by well-wishers when he resigned from the post of Mizoram Governor. Also, they were installed before the Model Code of Conduct came into force. That is not the case with the Shashi Tharoor poster," he said.
Even the Congress leader had attributed the posters to "well-wishers" when somebody brought them to his notice recently. "These were put up by well-wishers last week, before I was officially adopted as @INCIndia candidate... My own official election posters have been printed following the declaration of my candidacy on Saturday night, and will soon be up with no books on them!" he tweeted.
The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, with the votes being counted on May 23.