Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma

Guwahati: It was Assam Minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma‘s response to the show-cause notice issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) that was rejected by the poll body and resulted in a 48-hour campaigning ban on the leader ahead of Phase 3 of the Assam Assembly Election scheduled for April 6.

Sarma has said his remarks for Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) chief Hagrama Mohilary were “not a threat” to misuse the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

The Congress complained on March 30 that the BJP leader “openly threatened” to send Mohilary to jail by “misusing” the NIA. On Friday, the ECI rejected Sarma’s eight-page response and barred him from campaigning for the next 48 hours in the ongoing assembly elections.

Sarma, in his eight-page response to the ECI’s show-cause notice on Friday, had said that the INC did not have “any locus-standi to lodge a complaint against the undersigned as the person concerned Sri Hagrama Mahilary or his party, till date, has not lodged any complaint…”

Also Read | BJP’s Himanta barred for 48 hours over poll code violation

In his reply to the EC, Sarma said his remarks meant that the investigation can be handed over to the NIA as the place of occurrence of crime falls near international as well as the inter-state border.

“The undersigned gave a hypothetical reply to a question and that cannot be perceived as a threat in any manner, as any normal person would have replied in the same manner.”

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He also justified the mention of Mohilary with relation to the case, saying that an ongoing investigation has proved the connection of Mohilary to the case.

“IGP Assam wrote to the government of Assam to consider the case for transfer to NIA at the earliest on the basis that the place of occurrence falls near international as well as inter-state border and there would be a need for investigation of the case beyond the state of Assam to unearth all the linkage of the case and also the matter pertains to security and the integrity of the nation and therefore it is of paramount importance to nab all the accused,” he said in his reply to the EC.

“It has come to the knowledge of the undersigned (Himanta Biswa Sarma) herein that the investigation of the case progressed so far has indicated close connection and nexus of Hagrama Mahilary and his party with the nabbed accused persons and the Election Commission of India may be pleased to call for the case records from the state police department to verify the same,” he further said.

The Assam minister said that a newspaper headline had created confusion by distorting his statements and clarified that he only meant that “if Hagrama does extremism with Batha and encourages him then he will go to jail”.

“It is stated that the headline of the newspaper clipping dated 29 03 2021 “Hagrama will be jailed for encouraging Batha’s extremism: Himanta Biswa Sarma” is a distorted statement of the undersigned by the said newspaper. From the said distorted statement in the headline, it transpires that the undersigned has said that Hagrama Mahilary would be jailed for encouraging Batha’s extremism, meaning thereby that from the said headline it appears to be a conclusion drawn by the undersigned that Hagrama has encouraged Batha’s extremism and he will be jailed. But actually, in response to a query of a journalist who had asked whether the undersigned was trying to send Hagrama Mahilary to jail, and in response to the said query the undersigned had replied that if Hagrama does extremism with Batha and encourages him then he will go to jail,” read the reply.

The second phase that took place on Thursday saw a voter turnout of 74.76 per cent. Polling for the third and final phase will be held on April 6 and the counting of votes will take place on May 2.

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