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Parties May Have to Change Names Post SC Verdict, Say 2 Former CECs

New Delhi: Some political parties like the Shiv Sena and Indian Union Muslim League may have to change their names following the Supreme Court ban on religion in politics, former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami has said, even while raising doubts on how the order could be implemented.

Gopalaswami said party names bearing “heavy religious words” will have to be changed to avoid violating the SC order.

“There are parties like Akali Dal, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Shiv Sena, and Indian Union Muslim League who may have to change their names after the SC verdict,” he told News18 on Tuesday.

Former CEC SY Quraishi echoed Gopalaswami’s views, saying the need for changing names is high after the SC verdict.

“BJP is already questioning the names of a few political parties. I think parties with religious names should change their names after the apex court verdict, but courts will take the last call,” Quraishi said.

The Shiv Sena and the IUML promptly dismissed the suggestion.

While reconsidering the 1995 Hindutva case, a seven-judge Constitution bench of the SC headed by CJI TS Thakur had on Monday ruled that religion and politics should not be mixed and that any candidate seeking votes in the name of religion is committing a corrupt practice.

The dissenting judgment by three of the judges termed it an exercise in judicial legislation.

Calling the majority verdict “high on idealism” and the dissenting judgment “more on the ball”, Gopalaswami said it is not easy to get parties to change their names.

“All political parties have leaders who are thick-skinned. Such court verdicts do not matter to them unless an individual challenges the name in court and the court compels them to change their names. But who knows again after years of trial, the minority view of yesterday’s verdict may become the majority then?” the former CEC said.

His view was firmly opposed by Shiv Sena, with party spokesperson Manisha Kayande saying his party will fight such a move “tooth and nail.”

“Shiv Sena derives its name from Chhatrapati Shivaji and we have been a firm believer that every person should get things according to their merit. Yes, we have always fought for the oppressed Hindus but the Hindu stamp on us has been given by the Muslim appeasement policy followed by the Congress. No one can ask us to change our name,” he said.

Kayande said that even BJP may have to change its party symbol if one went by that logic. BJP has often said that Goddess Lakshmi sits on the lotus, so in a way even their symbol represents Hinduism and even that should be challenged,” Kayande told News18.

Indian Muslim League leader PV Abdul Wahab said the apex court should give more clarity on the matter.

“The SC verdict is nothing new and is only reiterating what was there in the RP Act of 1951. There is ‘The Hindu’ newspaper, but does that mean it caters only to Hindus? Obviously no, and I think there is no case for any change of name,” Wahab said.