The order was passed after the Election Commission upheld a complaint by the Congress; the party said Mr Sarma had threatened BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary to jail by misusing the NIA
Assam minister and senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma – who last night was given a 48-hour ban on campaigning – has challenged the Election Commission’s order in the Gauhati High Court.
The hearing is expected to take place in some time.
The poll body issued its order after it upheld a complaint by the Congress; the party said Mr Sarma had openly threatened to send Hagrama Mohilary – whose BPF (Bodoland People’s Front) is a member of the opposition alliance – to jail by misusing the NIA (National Investigation Agency).
The period of the ban effectively meant Mr Sarma – who is the BJP’s main poll strategist and has been listed as a ‘star campaigner’ – could no longer campaign in this Assembly election.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had welcomed the ban and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP chief JP Nadda and others should be similarly barred.
“EC barring Himanta Biswa Sarma from campaigning for 48 hours proves BJP has lost polls and is resorting to tactics to influence polls… should also bar Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Sarbananda Sonowal and JP Nadda, who were shown in ads in Assam’s newspapers, for free and fair polls,” he told news agency ANI.
Mr Surjewala also referred to the incident at Assam’s Ratabari, where officials were found to be transporting an EVM (electronic voting machine) in a BJP candidate’s car.
After an inquiry, the four officials involved were suspended and repolling ordered. Mr Surjewala called for the arrest of those officials; “only then a fair election can be ensured,” he said.
On Thursday the poll body had issued a show-cause notice to Mr Sarma, to which he replied on Friday. Unfortunately for him, the explanation was deemed “not satisfactory”.
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 on April 6, with votes to be counted on May 2.
With input from ANI