Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has moved the Gauhati High Court against an Election Commission (EC) order barring him from campaigning in the ongoing assembly polls.
Sarma petition was expected to come up for hearing on Saturday.
On Friday, EC barred Sarma from campaigning for 48 hours after the Congress filed a complaint against him alleging he threatened to put Bodoland Peoples’ Party (BPF) chief Hagrama Mohilary behind bars.
Since campaigning for the third and final phase of polls ends on Sunday, the order effectively puts an end to Sarma’s campaign.
A total of 40 seats including Jalukbari, from where Sarma is contesting, will go to the polls in the third phase on April 6.
“The commission strongly condemns the impugned statements made by Sh. Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP leader and star campaigner,” said the order issued by EC secretary Ajay Kumar Verma.
“The commission under Article 324 of Constitution of India and all other powers enabling in this behalf, bars him from holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows, interviews and public utterances in media (electronic, print, social media) etc. in connection with ongoing elections for 48 hours from immediate effect on 02.04.2021 (Friday).”
Holding him prima facie guilty of violating the model code of conduct, EC Thursday sent a notice to Sarma directing him to “explain his position” by 5 pm on Friday.
Though Sarma denied the allegations against him in his reply, the EC found it to be unsatisfactory.
“I am asked by ECI to stop campaigning for the next 48 hours. Therefore, all my meetings scheduled for tomorrow stand cancelled,” Sarma tweeted.
One of BJP’s leading campaigners, Sarma was attending 6-7 meetings daily besides conducting roadshows. Between February 25 and March 30, he attended 71 poll meetings, held roadshows, bike and cycle rallies, and visited 73 of the total 126 assembly constituencies in the state.
On Friday, he took part in five public rallies and one roadshow.
“Assam’s forever-in-waiting CM can’t issue some threats to unleash state agencies and bully the BPF,” Assam Congress president Ripun Bora tweeted after the EC order on Friday.
On March 30, Congress filed the complaint with EC alleging that Sarma had “openly threatened” to send Mohilary to jail by misusing National Investigation Agency.
Mohilary’s BPF is part of the Congress alliance of seven parties which also includes the All-India United Democratic Front.
Congress alleged that Sarma with his threats also attempted to influence voters not to vote for the Congress-led alliance including BPF.
Following the complaint, the EC obtained the full transcript of Sarma’s statement. He was found to have prima facie violated the model code of conduct.
A former chief of the rebel group Bodo Liberation Tigers, Mohilary joined a peace process in 2003.
BPF was also part of the BJP-led government in Assam. It later joined the Congress-led alliance and is contesting 12 seats.
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