Guwahati: The Election Commission on Wednesday warned Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to “exercise restraint” in his public utterances while campaigning for the coming byelections for five Assembly seats in the state.
Election Commission secretary N.T. Bhutia said in a notice to the chief minister: “The commission issues warning to him (Mr Sarma) and cautions him to be more careful and exercise restraint in future and strictly follow the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct while making public utterances.”
However, the EC’s warning came on the day electioneering is due to end for the October 30 byelections. The commission sent the notice to the chief minister on Monday on the basis of two complaints made by Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia and Assam Congress chief Bhupen Kumar Borah accusing the CM of violating the Model Code by making several announcements over building roads, medical colleges, schools and stadiums while campaigning.
They also alleged the CM had promised financial assistance to self-help groups of tea garden workers in order to woo voters.
The Model Code of Conduct states that a party in power cannot announce projects nor promise financial assistance that can influence voters after the elections are announced.
The CM in his reply however offered an “unconditional apology” in case there was any “inadvertent commission/omission of any provision of the Model Code of Conduct”. He also denied the allegations on the grounds that all announcements for development and financial assistance were either ongoing projects or were already announced by the government in the Budget speeches of 2020-21 and 2021-22.
The EC further stated it had arrived at its decision after having “carefully considered” the matter and documents submitted, as well as taken note of Mr Sarma’s apology. It also added no new or fresh announcements as alleged by the complainants had been made by Mr Sarma.
Voting in the five Assembly constituencies — Gossaigaon, Tamulpur, Bhawanipur, Mariani and Thowra – will be held on October 30. The counting of votes will be held on November 3.