New Delhi : Navratra festivities beginning on Tuesday will be under the scanner of Election Commission which barred all kinds of political activities at such religious functions in poll-bound Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh during the nine-day revelry.

The Navratras, which is especially a major festival in Gujarat, see a number of ‘dandia’ and other programmes being held across the state attracting tens of thousands of people.

EC officials said there is no ban on organising ‘dandias’, ‘aartis’ and other such programme during the period but political leaders cannot be invited as chief guests and they cannot use it as a platform for campaigning.

Also they will not be allowed to distribute any publicity material in any language at such events.

The prospective candidates and politicians can, however, attend these functions as ordinary citizens, the officials said, adding there would not be any special inaugural or concluding ceremony for the events.

Election authorities in the state will ensure that organisers do not allow the politicians to give speeches or use the events for campaigning and any violation will invoke strict action under various laws, including Religious Institution (prevention of misuse) Act, Chief Electoral officer of Gujarat Anita Karwal told PTI.

Before granting permission to organisers of such functions, the authorities will take an undertaking from them that they will not allow the event and the venue to be used for any political activity.

The rule will apply to both Himachal Pradesh where the process of electioneering has begun with the issue of formal election on Wednesday as well as Gujarat where the election notification would be issued on November 17 and 23 for the two-phase polling that will happen on December 13 and 17.

Himachal Pradesh goes to polls on November 4. The use of religion and religious spaces for campaigning during elections is not allowed as per existing election norms.

CCTVs would be installed on the location of Navratra fairs to help election officers monitor the conduct of politicians attending religious ceremonies.

In Gujarat, while the use of loud speakers is allowed till midnight during navratras as against the deadline of 10 pm, the extended hours will not apply to poll campaigning and it will have to wind up at 10 pm. PTI

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