EC Reduces Campaigning Ban on Himanta Biswa Sarma to 24 Hours

In a letter to Sarma, the poll body said it had taken note of his "unconditional apology" and had decided to reduce his period of debarment from election campaigning.

New Delhi: The Election Commission on Saturday reduced the 48-hour campaign ban imposed on Assam minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma to 24 hours after he assured the poll panel to abide by the provisions of the model code.

He was on Friday initially barred from campaigning related activities till April 4 for allegedly making threatening remarks against Bodoland People’s Front chief Hagrama Mohilary.

“The Commission … bars him from holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows, interviews and public utterances in media (electronic, print, social media) in connection with ongoing elections for 48 hours from immediate effect on April 02 (Friday),” the order read.

On Thursday, the EC notice to Sarma quoted a transcript of the speech provided by the state election machinery. “If Hagrama does extremism with Batha he will go to jail. This is a straight talk. If Hagrama encourages Batha, he will go to jail. Already got lot of evidence. This case is being given to NIA,” according to a portion of Sarma’s speech made part of the notice.

After barring Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma from campaigning in the assembly polls for 48 hours, the Election Commission has also transferred his brother and Goalpara Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma from the district.

Also read: Assam: EC’s Special Observer Finds No Deliberate Attempt to Disrupt Poll Process

An order issued by the Commission on Friday said that Sarma shall be transferred to some suitable post in the state headquarters and IPS officer Veera Venakata Rakesh Reddy shall be posted with immediate effect as the new Superintendent of Police of Goalpara district, which will go to polls in the third and last phase on April 6.

Canvassing for the third and final phase of Assam assembly elections comes to an end on the evening of April 4. The final phase of polling will be held on April 6.

In his representation to the Election Commission, Sarma had pleaded to reduce the ban on the grounds that he is himself a candidate in the constituency which is scheduled to go for polls on April 6.

In a letter to Sarma, the Election Commission said it had taken note of his “unconditional apology and assurance/undertaking” and had decided to modify its April 2 order and reduce the period of debarment from election campaign from 48 hours to 24 hours “to the effect that permission may be granted for holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows, by the concerned district administration authorities, where you are expected or likely to participate.”

The Congress had approached the EC demanding action against Sarma for his remark that Mohilary would be sent to jail through central probe agency NIA if he does “extremism” with rebel leader M. Batha.

The Bodoland People’s Front is an ally of the Congress in Assam. It was previously with the BJP.

(With inputs from PTI)