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Assam duo gets poll panel rap

Guwahati, March 7: The Election Commission today cracked the whip for the first time in the run-up to the Assembly elections in Assam, showcausing a minister of the Tarun Gogoi government and a senior Congress legislator for alleged violation of the model code of conduct.

The showcause notices issued to minister Ripun Bora and MLA Haren Das indicated that the commission was committed to ensuring free and fair elections in the state and would brook no foul play.

Apart from asking for explanations from the duo, the poll panel set up a two-member committee to inquire into specific charges of violation of the code of conduct against several officials. It also asked chief secretary S. Kabilan to probe allegations that the government had made some backdated appointments after the poll schedule was announced.

Chief election commissioner B.B. Tandon announced that the showcause notices were issued to Bora, the panchayat and rural development minister, and Das on the basis of complaints that the duo had come to the state election office yesterday in government vehicles.

The duo has been asked to submit their replies by 5 pm tomorrow why action should not be taken against them.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said he had personally asked the minister why he utilised a government vehicle to meet Tandon. The minister explained that it was an oversight. “We will take necessary steps after getting replies from the two Congress leaders,” Tandon said.

On backdated appointments, the chief minister conceded that there could be some such cases, adding that he had instructed Kabilan to find out if there were any.

“I have also instructed the chief secretary that if any backdated appointment has been issued, it is to be cancelled forthwith,” Gogoi said.

Maintaining that the commission would have “zero-level” tolerance as far as enforcing the code of conduct was concerned, Tandon said stern action would be taken against any official if he or she was found conniving with any political party.

He said special arrangements would be made for voters sheltered in various refugee camps in Karbi Anglong district so that they could exercise their franchise.

The commission is also working out a security blueprint to ensure that militants cannot disrupt polling.

The chief minister said around 350 companies of paramilitary forces are likely to be deployed for the polls, slated for April 3 and 10.

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