BJP Leader Himanta Biswa Sarma’s Campaign Ban Reduced To 24 Hours

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BJP Leader Himanta Biswa Sarma's Campaign Ban Reduced To 24 Hours

Himanta Biswa Sarma is the BJP’s poll strategist for the ongoing Assam Assembly election (File)

New Delhi/Guwahati:

The Election Commission has halved Assam minister and senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma’s 48-hour campaign ban – which was handed down late Friday night for threatening to send BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary, an opposition leader whose party had formerly allied with his, to jail.

With his ban reduced to just 24 hours, Mr Sarma will now be able to campaign tomorrow – the final day before the third and final phase of Assembly elections take place on Tuesday.

In a letter to Mr Sarma the Election Commission said it had taken note of “your unconditional apology and assurance/undertaking” and would modify its earlier order “and reduce the period of debarment from election campaign from 48 hours to 24 hours…”

“You have also pleaded on the grounds that you are yourself a candidate in the constituency that is scheduled to vote on April,” the letter added.

Mr Sarma – who is the BJP’s main poll strategist and has been listed as a ‘star campaigner’ – petitioned the top poll body earlier today, and offered his “sincere regret and assurance of abiding by the MCC (Model Code of Conduct) in the future…”

Mr Sarma had asked the Election Commission to cut his ban from 48 hours to 24 hours.

The halving of his ban comes after reports this morning that Mr Sarma had approached the Gauhati High Court to challenge the Election Commission’s order. However, sources close to him soon denied this. They said Mr Sarma had accepted the top poll body’s order.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP’s go-to man in the northeast, is a four-time MLA (the first two of those terms were as a Congress leader) from the Jalukbari constituency.

The Election Commission issued its original ban order late Friday night, after it upheld a complaint by the Congress; the party said Mr Sarma threatened to send Hagrama Mohilary – whose Bodoland People’s Front is part of the opposition alliance – to jail by misusing the National Investigation Agency.

Mr Mohilary was once an ally of the BJP but switched to the Congress after the BJP joined hands with the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) to form Bodoland Territorial Council in December.

The election to the 126-member Assam Assembly has been spread over three phases with 77.2 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchise in 39 constituencies in the second phase on April 1. In the first phase on March 27 around 76 per cent of voters in 30 constituencies cast their vote.

The third and final phase will be held April 6, with votes to be counted May 2.

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