Himanta Biswa Sarma, an Assam minister, and senior BJP leader has been granted a 48-hour campaigning ban ahead of Tuesday’s third and final step of Assembly elections.
The Election Commission released its order late Friday night, following the upholding of a complaint by the Congress, which said that Mr Sarma had sought to imprison Hagrama Mohilary, whose BPF (Bodoland People’s Front) is a member of the opposition alliance, by misusing the NIA.
The ban, which takes effect tonight, essentially ensures Mr Sarma, the BJP’s chief poll strategist, and a star campaigner,’ will be unable to campaign in this election.
Mr Sarma received a show-cause notice from the election body on Thursday, which he responded to earlier today. His justification was, unfortunately, considered “insufficient.”
“The Commission hereby strongly condemns the impugned statements made by Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP leader, and star campaigner… bars him from holding all public meetings, processions, rallies, roadshows, interviews, and public utterances in media (electronic, print, social media, etc.) in connection with the ongoing elections for 48 hours from immediate effect,” the Election Commission said.
During a speech on March 28, Mr Sarma made the remarks that led to his suspension.
He said, ” “‘If Hagrama Mohilary joins in extremism, he will face the consequences.’ This is a simple debate… I’ve already collected a large amount of evidence. This case has been forwarded to the National Institute of Justice (NIA) (National Investigation Agency). The case of weapons seized in a car in Kokrajhar has been handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Nobody, not even Hagrama, would be able to cause unrest in the Bodoland Territorial Area…”
A Congress delegation met with Election Commission officials two days later to file a formal complaint. Mr Sarma’s statement, according to the group, amounted to an open threat of incarceration for Mr Mohilary.
Mr Mohilary was once a BJP ally but turned to the Congress after the BJP teamed up with the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) in December to create the Bodoland Territorial Council.
The 126-member Assam Assembly election was held in three phases, with 77.2 percent of eligible voters casting ballots in 39 constituencies in the second phase on April 1. Around 76 percent of voters in 30 constituencies voted in the first round on March 27.
On April 6, the third and final process will take place, with votes being counted on May 2.