The Election Commission on Sunday turned down the demand to postpone polling in Tamulpur constituency of Assam after Bodoland People’s Front candidate Rangja Khungur Basumatary joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, days before voting, NDTV reported.
The Bodoland People’s Front, a Congress ally in the Assam elections, had filed a complaint to the poll body demanding suspension of elections, pointing out that Basumatary had joined the saffron party on April 1, after the deadline for withdrawing nominations for voting in Tamulpur. The Congress had also filed a separate complaint with the poll body. BPF, meanwhile, moved the Supreme Court on the matter on Sunday. Tamulpur will vote on April 6.
In its reply to Congress and BPF, the Election Commission said that it held a video conference with Basumatary on April 3, where he informed the poll panel that he had joined the BJP “without any pressure from any quarter”, The Indian Express reported.
“When the campaigning process was on, I realised that it was not possible to continue to fight in the elections,” Basumatary reportedly said. “ Hence, I willingly, without any pressure from any quarter, joined the BJP. I have not received any notice or letter from the BPF in connection with joining the BJP.”
He also said he would not contest the election but would work on behalf of the candidate fielded in Tamulpur by BJP ally United People’s Party Liberal, NDTV reported. Earlier, Basumatary had told a local TV channel that he had decided to quit the Bodoland People’s Front as the party did not help him to fund his election campaign.
The Election Commission, in its statement, said that the polling can be adjourned at this stage only in the event of death of a candidate, according to NDTV.
It said that Basumatary was a member of the BPF till the last day for withdrawal of nominations on March 22 and added that it was only on April 1, when senior deputy election commissioner in Guwahati received a WhatsApp message suggesting that BPF had removed Basumatary from the party. The poll panel, however, regarded the decision as an “afterthought”, The Indian Express reported.
The poll panel concluded that the complaint filed by BPF did not “adduce any evidence” to suggest that Basumatary has relinquished his membership from the party.
Earlier, after Basumatary shifted loyalties, the Congress had said that he had gone missing for two days before joining the BJP. Then on March 31, Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had tweeted saying that Basumatary had expressed willingness to join the BJP after meeting him.
The Bodoland People’s Front was an ally of the BJP till recently, before the Hagrama Mohilary-led outfit decided to join the Congress’ alliance a month before Assam polls. The development came after months of discord between the Bodoland People’s Front and the BJP, as four districts that came under the council were placed under the Governor’s rule after local polls, which were scheduled to take place in April, were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Once the polls eventually took place in December, the BJP chose to ally with the United People’s Party Liberal.