The Tamil Nadu Government has decided to reject permission for the month-long Vetri Vel Yatra that the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party had planned across the state, invoking Lord Murugan. The Yatra, the BJP’s first ahead of the Assembly elections in 2021 was to begin on November 6 and conclude on December 6, covering all six abodes of Lord Murugan by traversing from Tiruttani to Tiruchendur. 

However, after the setback, it is understood that the party is discussing the way ahead for the Yatra and awaiting word from their leadership in Delhi. 

Advocate General Vijay Narayan has informed the Madras High Court that the rejection order would be served to the BJP State unit office bearers on Thursday. Among the reasons cited for the rejection were the threat of COVID-19 and the overtones related to the Yatra. 

Referring to a government order dated October 31, the advocate general told the Court that religious, social and political gatherings would be permitted with not more than 100 people, only after November 15. 

Representing the BJP state unit, Advocate Raghavachari questioned the government’s decision to reject permission, by countering that the central government had not prohibited religious congregations due to COVID-19 and that it had only insisted that physical distancing be maintained.

Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said that the BJP could not take such a stand without challenging the GO that prevented gatherings, which was issued by the state government on October 31st.

The advocate representing the BJP said that they would have challenged the GO, if the state had rejected their request for permission citing the government order. He also added that the concerned authorities hadn’t passed any orders on the same.

The Bench said that it was open to the Tamil Nadu government to pass appropriate orders on the representation seeking permission for the rally, and also added that if any of the parties are aggrieved by the order, they could challenge the order in court.

In this context, it must be noted that the birth anniversary of freedom fighter and spiritual leader Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar was celebrated in a grand manner amid the pandemic and had major state leaders in attendance, barely a week ago.

In August too, allies BJP and AIADMK were on collision course over the celebrations of Vinayaka Chaturthi or Ganesh Chaturthi across the state amid the pandemic, thus leaving it for the Madras High Court to decide. 

Back then, the court had permitted only individuals and families to install Ganesha idols and immerse them in nearby water bodies. Immersion in large public spaces such as Marina beach were prohibited. 

The court also emphasized that the Tamil Nadu’s government’s ban on public celebrations, processions, installation of idols in public will be in force. The court also clarified that no organization would be able to carry out celebration activities and processions. 

The bench also recorded the undertaking made by the outfit Hindu Munnani, which stated that they would not undertake any processions and would cooperate with the state authorities. 

The state government’s decision to permit opening of liquor shops in Chennai city(from Aug 18th), while not permitting installing of Ganesha idols, taking them on processions, immersion rituals had irked the BJP state leadership. BJP leaders had questioned the Tamil Nadu government, asking them to take a cue from the neighboring Karnataka government that has permitted the festival to be celebrated amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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