EC tones down gag order on Himanta Biswa Sarma to 24 hours after apology
The Election Commission (EC) on Saturday reduced its earlier order barring Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and senior Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma from campaigning in the ongoing assembly polls to 24 hours after he tendered an apology.
On Friday, the EC had barred Sarma from campaigning for 48 hours in connection with a complaint by the Congress for threatening to put Bodoland Peoples’ Party (BPF) chief Hagrama Mohilary behind bars.
“The Commission, having considered your aforesaid unconditional apology and assurance/undertaking….has decided to modify its order dated April 2 and reduce the period of debarment from election campaign from 48 hours to 24 hours,” the EC order issued on Saturday said.
HT had earlier reported that Sarma was considering appealing to the EC to review its Friday order. With the fresh order, the BJP leader will be able to take part in poll campaigning from Saturday evening.
“Join us in our road show today evening from Sonaram field to Lal Ganesh which will cover a 6 km distance in support of Ramendra Narayan Kalita, our candidate from West Guwahati constituency,” tweeted Sarma after the EC order.
Campaigning for the third and final phase of polls in the state ends on Sunday. A total of 40 seats including Jalukbari from where Sarma is contesting will go to polls in the third phase to be held on April 6.
Holding him prima facie guilty of violating the model code of conduct for elections, the EC had earlier barred Sarma from holding any public meetings, processions, rallies, road shows, interviews and public utterances in media (electronic, print, social media) in connection with the elections for 48 hours.
One of the BJP’s leading campaigners for Assam polls, Sarma was attending 6-7 meetings daily besides road shows. Between February 25 and March 30, he had attended 71 poll meetings, held road shows, bike and cycle rallies and visited 73 of the total 126 assembly seats in the state.
On Friday, he had taken part in five public rallies and one road show.
On March 30, the Congress had filed a complaint with the EC alleging that Sarma had “openly threatened” to send Mohilary to jail by misusing the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Mohilary’s BPF is part of the Congress’ grand-alliance of seven parties which also includes the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and is contesting from 12 seats in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).
The EC on Friday had directed the chief electoral officer of Assam to transfer Himanta Biswa Sarma’s brother Sushanta Biswa Sarma from the post of Superintendent of Police of Goalpara district to “some suitable post in the state headquarters”.
Without citing any reason, the EC had directed CEO, Assam to post Veera Venkata Rakesh Reddy, IPS, as the Superintendent of Police, Goalpara in place of Sarma.
Assembly seats in Goalpara district will go to polls in the third and final phase on April 6.