NEW DELHI: The Congress on Saturday hit out at the Election Commission for reducing the campaigning ban on Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and said it is a dark day for parliamentary democracy and history will not pardon the panel.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it was deplorable that the EC could not sustain its own order and accused the poll body of buckling under pressure of the Modi government by reducing the ban on Sarma from 48 hours to 24 hours.
The Election Commission Friday had banned Sarma from all modes of campaigning for 48 hours for allegedly making threatening remarks against Bodoland People's Front (BPF) chief Hagrama Mohilary but reduced it to 24 hours this evening after the minister tendered an "unconditional apology" and assured the poll panel that he will abide by the provisions of the model code.
"A dark day for Parliamentary democracy. ECI doesn't even have the guts to sustain its own order. Deplorable that EC buckles under Modi Government's pressure and reverses its own order of ban on Sh. Himanta Biswa Sarma. History will neither pardon ECI nor BJP for this sin," Surjewala said on Twitter.
Questioning the EC, he asked why did it make this change of heart and why it did not seek the comments of the complainant.
The Congress had complained to the EC against Sarma and demanded action against him for giving threats to Mohilary.
"Will the ECI tell - Was this somersault taken suo moto or on a fresh plea by BJP/Himanta Sarma? If yes, why did EC then not call upon the complainant, BPF and Congress? If no, why this vexatious change of heart," Surjewala asked.
"Does it now give a license to issue threat with impunity," he further asked.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra alleged that the EC seems to have torn down the page of "impartiality" from its rulebook.
"While we were awaiting strict action from the Election Commission in the case in which an EVM was found in the BJP leader's car, but another move of the Commission seems to suggest that it has torn down the page of impartiality from its rulebook," she said in a tweet in Hindi.
"After all, under what pressure was the ban on BJP leader, who was giving threats, reduced from 48 hours to 24 hours," she asked.
Another Congress leader Jaiveer Shergill said, "By 'relaxing' the ban on Himanta Biswa Sarma, the EC itself has given the proof that they are involved in 'fixing' the election for BJP."
"The EC must explain why sudden change of heart? Who in BJP called up to threaten them? EC shamelessly becoming BJP co-conspirator in hijacking democracy," he alleged.
After the EC reduced the ban, Sarma became eligible to campaign from the evening.
Canvassing for the third and final phase of Assam assembly elections comes to an end on the evening of April 4.
The final phase of polling will be held on April 6.
In his fresh representation to EC on Saturday, Sarma pleaded for reducing the ban to 24 hours on the ground that he is himself a candidate in the constituency which is scheduled to go for polls on Tuesday.
He also sought an unconditional apology from the EC, which was considered.