The Election Commission on Wednesday issued a warning to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for violating the Model Code of Conduct while campaigning for the October 30 bye-polls in the state.
The bye-polls for five Assembly seats in Assam – Bhabanipur, Thowra, Mariani, Gossaigaon and Tamulpur – will be held on Saturday.
In a notice issued to Sarma on October 25, the poll body had asked the chief minister to submit a reply within 24 hours. The notice was based on complaints filed by state Congress leaders Debabrata Saikia and Bhupen Kumar Borah.
The Congress leaders had accused Sarma of making several announcements about government-funded projects at election meetings held in Bhabanipur, Thowra and Mariani Assembly constituencies. The chief minister also promised financial aid for self-help groups of tea garden workers in Assam.
But the Congress alleged that this amounted to violation of the Election Commission’s rules, which prohibit announcement of new projects, programmes, concessions or financial grants by the ruling party once the Model Code of Conduct is in place.
Sarma had made the speeches on October 8, October 20, October 21 and October 22, according to the complaints by the Congress leaders. The Model Code of Conduct came into effect on September 28, when the Election Commission announced the date of the bye-polls.
In its order on Wednesday, the Election Commission said that Sarma, in his reply to the notice, had claimed that the announcements were about projects that had already been promised in the state’s Budget speeches for the last two years.
However, the Election Commission noted that Sarma had “acted in contravention to the spirit” of the poll body’s advisory on the Model Code of Conduct.
The Congress said that the Election Commission should have taken stricter action against Sarma and demanded that the BJP should apologise to the residents of Assam.
In a tweet, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that the Election Commission’s warning had exposed BJP’s “shameful and illegal attempts to influence voters”.