Abu Zaim | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday issued notices to eight major Assam dailies which carried provocative and misleading advertisement of the BJP in the form of a headline claiming that the party will win all 47 seats in Upper Assam where elections were held in the first phase on Saturday.
The Congress dubbed the advertisement as BJP’s desperations and gross violation of the Representation of the People Act as also the ECI’s own circular which prohibits dissemination of any prediction even by third parties, astrologers, tarot readers and by political analysts.
The Journalists Union of Assam (JUA) also expressed strong dismay over the ‘apparent complicity’ of a number of leading daily newspapers in Assam in publishing an advertisement of the ruling BJP on March 28 in the ‘disguise of a news headline’ on the top of page 1.
Earlier on March 28, the Congress had filed a complaint against Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, party president J P Nadda and state unit chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass along with eight leading newspapers, which published on Sunday an advertisement in the format of newspaper headlines.
Taking the cognizance of the complaint, ECI has issued notices to Assam Tribune, Asomiya Pratidin, Aamar Asom, Niyomia Barta, Asomiya Khabor, Dainik Asam, Dainik Jugasankha and Dainik Purvodaya. These are influential papers in the state having a good circulation.
In the notices, Assam Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade directed these newspapers to send a report clarifying their position to the Commission by 7 pm on Monday. The newspapers are reported to have also submitted their reports which were forwarded to the ECI.
Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala also urged the ECI to register an FIR for violation of Section 126 (A) of Representation of the People Act, against CM Sonowal, Nadda, Dass and other officials.
“The advertisement is a gross violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) as the front page misleading advertisement, after conclusion of the first phase of polls, claims that BJP is winning all the seats in Upper Assam”, Surjewala said.
“The truth is BJP stands decimated, whether it is tea workers, whether it is the original Assamese people, whether it is the other inhabitants of Assam, they have decisively rejected BJP,” Surjewala asserted.
It must be mentioned here that Election Commission’s own circular issued in 2017 categorically prohibits dissemination of any prediction even by third parties, astrologers, tarot readers and by political analysts.
“In addition to this, ECI itself had given categorical direction as early as on March 26, 2021 saying that if anybody tries to project results of the election between March 27 to April 29, 2021 that will be a crime under section 126 (A) and therefore, we have asked the Election Commission to act,” the Congress leader said.
Congress leader Devdutt Kamath, who went to ECI, said the telecast and printing of certain advertisements just after the first phase of the Upper Assam elections is totally illegal and contrary to the section 126 of the Representation of People’s Act.
He said the Election Commission has assured the Congress delegation that they have called for a report from its observers on the ground in Assam and they will take a report positively as far as this matter is concerned, by tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Journalists Union of Assam (JUA) has also urged the Election Commission to take action against these papers. JUA said in a statement that the advertisement was obviously meant to mislead the electorate in the coming two phases of the Assembly polls.
“By publishing the advertisement in the guise of a headline the newspapers in the State have compromised on their integrity, neutrality and independence. They owe an explanation and apology to the readers and the general public of Assam,” it added.
The JUA also condemned the ruling BJP for trying to ‘derail democracy’ by resorting to unethical methods.
Urging the Election Commission to take strong penal measures on both the erring newspapers and the BJP, the scribes’ body said the BJP has not only insulted the people of Assam but has also violated the ban on exit polls after March 27.
For the 126-member Assam assembly, in the first phase election for 47 seats were held on March 27. Elections to 39 seats will be held in the second phase on April 1 and 40 in the third and final phase on April 6, 2021. The main battle is between the ruling BJP-led alliance and opposition Congress – led Anchalik Gana Morcha (Regional Democratic Front) which comprises ten political outfits.