ECI lets off Himanta with warning over model code ‘violation’

Poll body asks Assam CM to exercise “restraint” during bypoll campaigns

GUWAHATI, Oct 27: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Wednesday asked Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to “exercise restraint” and ensure that he “strictly follows the provisions of the model code of conduct during campaigning for the October 30 Assembly by-elections.

The ECI had on Monday issued a notice to the chief minister, seeking an explanation by Tuesday evening for the alleged violation of the model code of conduct during by-election campaigns.

Sarma accordingly submitted his reply before the commission, denying the allegations on the ground that all the announcements made at various election meetings in Bhabanipur, Thowra and Mariani LACs were either related to ongoing projects or had been announced by the state government in the Budget speeches of 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The All India Congress Committee had submitted a memorandum to the ECI calling for urgent intervention and lodging of FIR to debar Sarma, the star campaigner of the ruling BJP in Assam, from further campaigning for allegedly “violating the model code of conduct” while campaigning for the ruling party’s candidates.

Earlier, Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president, Bhupen Kumar Borah and Congress Legislative Party leader, Debabrata Saikia had also lodged complaints against Sarma.

The chief minister, in his reply to the ECI, further said that “no new or fresh announcements, as alleged by the complainants, have been made by him, citing documentary evidence.”

He also sought an unconditional apology from the poll body “in case of any inadvertent commission/omission of any provision of the model code of conduct.”

However, the ECI, after taking note of the chief minister’s submission of seeking an unconditional apology, said that he “acted in contravention” to the spirit of the advisory/instruction issued by the commission.

“Therefore, the commission issues warning to him and cautions him to be more careful and exercise restraint in future and strictly follow the provisions of the model code of conduct while making public utterances,” ECI stated in an order.

Bypolls in Assam will be held in five constituencies – Thowra, Mariani, Bhabanipur, Tamulpur and Gossaigaon – on October 30.


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