EC halves campaigning ban on BJP’s Himanta Biswa Sarma after he tenders ‘unconditional apology’

New Delhi, Apr 3 (PTI) The Election Commission (EC) on Saturday reduced the 48-hour campaign ban imposed on Assam minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma to 24 hours after he tendered an “unconditional apology” and assured the poll panel that he will abide by the provisions of the model code.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader can now start campaigning from the evening.

He was initially barred from campaigning-related activities till April 4 on Friday for allegedly making threatening remarks against Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) chief Hagrama Mohilary.

The Congress reacted sharply to the EC’s decision to reduce the campaigning ban on Sarma, saying it is a dark day for parliamentary democracy and history will not pardon the poll panel.

Canvassing for the third and final phase of the Assam Assembly polls comes to an end in the evening of April 4. The final phase of polling will be held on April 6.

In his representation to the EC on Saturday, Sarma pleaded to reduce the ban to 24 hours on the ground that he himself is a candidate in a constituency that is scheduled to go to polls on Tuesday.

The EC order said in his representation, Sarma requested the poll panel to “accept my sincere regret and assurance of abiding by MCC in future, and, be further pleased to reduce the period of debarment from election campaign from 48 hours to 24 hours”.

The EC said after considering his “unconditional apology and assurance/undertaking”, it has decided to modify its April 2 order and “reduce the period of debarment from election campaign from 48 hours to 24 hours to the effect that permission may be granted for holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows by the concerned district administration authorities, where you are expected or likely to participate”.

The Congress had approached the EC demanding action against Sarma for his remark that Mohilary would be sent to jail through central probe agency NIA if he does “extremism” with rebel leader M Batha.

The BPF is an ally of the Congress in Assam. It was previously with the BJP.

Responding to a query as to why DMK leader A Raja’s ban was not curtailed, a person familiar with the developments said he had not made a representation to the commission like Sarma.

Sarma rendered an unconditional apology and requested the EC to curtail the ban, the functionary of the poll panel observed.

The EC had banned Raja from campaigning for 48 hours on Thursday after finding him guilty of violating the Model Code of Conduct by making derogatory remarks against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami.

In the past, the commission had banned Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union minister Anurag Thakur, Delhi MP Parvesh Varma, the presidents of the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh units of the BJP, amongst others.

In 2014, on a similar unconditional apology, the EC had removed a ban against a senior leader, the functionary of the poll panel pointed out.