Kottayam: The Election Commission of India gave its approval to distribute free Onam food kits in byelection-bound Puthupally on Monday. But the approval came pretty late in the day.
The kits are lying in the ration shops and Maveli stores and tomorrow is Onam. The assembly constituency has around 10,000 beneficiaries for the state government's free Onam kit, said officials.
The Chief Electoral Officer of Kerala on August 25 wrote to the CEC seeking direction on whether the government could be allowed to distribute the food kit in Puthupally.
The CEC gave its approval after three days with three conditions: one, it should be distributed by civil authorities without involving the political functionaries; two, there shall be no mention of it to gain political mileage; and three, the kit and the publicity material shall not contain any name or photograph of any political functionary.
Around 5 pm, LDF's election in-charge in Puthuppally and minister for cooperation and registration V N Vasavan accused the Congress-led UDF of complaining to the Election Observer to stop the distribution of the Onam kit. "The Election Observer would not have raised an objection without receiving a complaint," he said in a press conference.
When the objection was raised, the LDF approached the district collector and informed her that food kits were not an election dole but to help the poor enjoy a sumptuous Onam, and the practice had been going on for years, said Vasavan.
"But the UDF, after first hampering the distribution, was going around and telling people that the kits were not being distributed because the government did not have money," he said. "It was laughable because the kits had arrived at Maveli Stores," he said.
The Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan had also written to the Chief Electoral Officer seeking the immediate withdrawal of the order to stop distribution of Onam kits in Puthuppally.
He wrote: "The technicality of the by-elections in Puthuppally should not be a hindrance to the kit distribution. The Election Commission’s decision should not dash the hopes of the poor who are waiting to celebrate Onam."