The Election Commission of India has issued notices to eight newspapers in Assam for publishing an advertisement for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the form of front page headlines, which claimed that the party will win all 47 seats that went to polls in the first phase of state elections on Saturday, PTI reported on Sunday.
The notices were sent to the newspapers after the Congress complained that the advertisement violated the Model Code of Conduct. The party urged the poll panel to take immediate action against the newspapers and BJP.
The Congress’ Assam unit had on Sunday also filed a police complaint against Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, BJP President JP Nadda, the saffron party’s state unit chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass and the eight newspapers, which included The Assam Tribune, Asomiya Pratidin, Aamar Asom and Dainik Asam.
Niran Borah, the chairperson of the legal department of Congress’s Assam unit, alleged that the BJP resorted to “illegal and unconstitutional” methods to influence the state’s voters, after realising that its defeat was inevitable, according to PTI.
“The advertisements have been presented in a manner on the front page of the newspapers to prejudice the mind of the voters and this deliberate, malicious and mala fide set of advertisements is in clear violation of Section 126A of the Representation of People Act, 1951, which is punishable by two years of imprisonment and fine,” Borah added.
Borah pointed out that the poll panel had stopped publication of predictions related to Assam elections between March 27 and April 29. “The publication of large scale advertisements by the BJP “falsely predicting the outcome of the current assembly election in their favour also amounts to direct violation of the instruction”, he was quoted as saying by PTI.
Congress Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also accused the BJP of trying to cheat voters in Assam with deceptive advertisements, India Today reported. “The truth is BJP stands decimated,” he was quoted as saying by the news channel. “Whether it is tea workers, whether it is the original Assamese people, whether it is the other inhabitants of Assam, they have decisively rejected BJP.”
Meanwhile, Assam BJP Chief Spokesperson Rupam Goswami claimed that the advertisements were a reflection of the party’s confidence, which was based on ground reports, according to The Telegraph. “Why is the Congress so worried?” he asked. “All ads are passed after approval from poll panel officials entrusted with vetting advertisements.”
R Ravi, the editor of one of the newspapers that got the Election Commission notice, said: “It is an advertisement, not a news report. The BJP symbol was beside the content.”
The first phase of Assembly elections in Assam took place on March 27. The next two phases are scheduled to take place on April 1 and 6.