Days ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, a Kerala court today sent a BJP candidate to judicial custody in connection with clashes that broke out at the Sabarimala hill shrine late last year.
The Pathanamthitta first class judicial magistrate's court has ordered the judicial remand of Prakash Babu, the BJP candidate from Kozhikode constituency, for a period of 14 days. The politician is accused of attacking a middle-aged woman in the midst of protests against a much-debated Supreme Court order on September 28 last year.
The Kerala High Court had earlier rejected an anticipatory bail plea filed by Mr Babu. He is also accused in seven other assault cases related to the Sabarimala violence.
Kerala Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena has asked parties in the state to refrain from spreading religious propaganda -- especially the Sabarimala controversy -- to seek votes in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. "Sabarimala is a religious place. It would be a clear violation of the Model Code of Conduct if anybody uses the name of a temple or a mosque to solicit votes," he had earlier told mediapersons.
The BJP, however, seemed undaunted by the directive. "The Chief Electoral Officer said that the Sabarimala issue must not be used to create hatred or disharmony in society. But we can use issues related to the stand of the government, police and atheists," state party president PS Sreedharan Pillai told reporters.
Kerala BJP general secretary K Surendran has been named as the candidate for Pathanamthitta, a seat that the party hopes to win in the wake of the Sabarimala protests. He was also taken into custody in a similar case earlier this year.
The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. Kerala will go to the polls on April 23. The votes will be counted on May 23.