By Matters India Reporter
Gandhinagar: The Election Commission of India has said that it would study a Hindu priest’s alleged appeal to a sect to vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the coming assembly elections in Gujarat, a western Indian state.
“We have had the district electoral officer look into that matter and it has been videographed too,” B B Swain, Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat, told reporters on November 29.
The priest of the Vadtal Swaminarayan Temple alleged made the appeal during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state for election campaign. Media reports said the priest had openly asked the Hindu sect to vote for the BJP.
Earlier, the election commission had asked Archbishop Thomas Macwan of Gandhinagar, the head of the Catholic Church in the state, for asking fellow bishops in the country to pray so that only those remaining faithful to the Indian Constitution could get elected.
The prelate with flowing beard on November 28 clarified that he had no “mala fide intention” against any party when he made appeals for prayers for elections.
The archbishop made the appeal in his November 21 letter to the heads of 174 dioceses in the country. The appeal sought prayers for the victory of “humane leaders faithful to the Indian Constitution” to “save India “from nationalist forces.”
The BJP and its supporters interpreted it as appeal against the party.
The commission asked for the prelate’s explanation on Nov 25. It asked why his appeal should not be viewed as a violation of the model code of conduct.
Asked if the remarks of visit to the temple were not a violation of the model code of conduct, Swain said, ” We shall be looking into that, as well as the matter with the Gandhinagar Archbishop’s letter.”
Vadtal, the headquarters of the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is some 90 km south of Gandhinagar, the state capital. The temple complex has three main shrines.
The town of Vadtal is known as Vadtal Swaminarayan. The temple is in the shape of a lotus, with nine domes in the inner temple. The land for the shrine was donated by Joban Pagi, a dacoit converted by Swaminarayan. The temple was ordered by swaminarayan and constructed under the supervision of S.G. Shri Brahmanand Swami.
The construction took 15 months to complete and Swaminarayan installed the idols of Shri Laxminarayan Dev on November 3, 1824.
During the independence movement, many national leaders spoke at the temple. In January 1921 Mahatma Gandhi used the temple to explain the relevance of non-cooperation to Hindu religion.
The temple is a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (world Hindu council) and is considered part of the inner management circle of the organization.