Bhubaneswar, Dec. 17: The BJD faced an embarrassment today with the state election commission holding finance minister Prasanna Acharya guilty of violating the model code of conduct during the recently concluded municipal elections in west Odisha.
The commission asked Acharya to be cautious in future.
The verdict comes as a shot in the arm for the Congress-led Opposition, which has been campaigning against the government on a slew of issues, the latest being sine die adjournment of the Assembly by curtailing the winter session. The session ended as the Opposition refused to budge from its demand for an unconditional apology from revenue minister Surjya Narayan Patro for allegedly misleading the House on the issue of central assistance to the state in the wake of Phailin.
Acharya had sparked off a controversy by making a speech at a public meeting at ward No. 19 of the Bargarh Municipality on November 17. He had allegedly threatened the voters that he, in his capacity as finance minister, would choke the flow of funds to the area if they voted for the Congress. Both the Congress and the BJP had lodged complaints with the commission.
State election commissioner Ajit Tripathy said Acharya had been cautioned against making such statements at public gatherings. “After verifying records, including the collector’s report, we have found him guilty. We have asked Acharya to be cautious while addressing public gatherings and making announcements in election meetings in future.”
The commission, which started a formal probe into the issue after getting complaints from the Congress and the BJP on November 21, was not satisfied with Acharya’s reply. It had also sought the Bargarh collector’s report.
Several local news channels had broadcast footage of Acharya’s speech at the meet.
The Opposition had also criticised the commission for taking time in issuing a letter to him. Tripathy said: “It was a sensitive issue and both the sides of the story was to be taken into consideration. My office had to collect tapes from the local channels and also ask the district collector to send a report. As I thought that the report of the district administration was not satisfactory, I myself went to Bargarh and inquired with local political parties about it.”
Acharya said: “The election commission is a constitutional body. I have nothing to comment on its ruling. What I had to say I had already explained in my reply to him.”
Pradesh Congress Committee president Jayadev Jena said: “The minister should resign on moral grounds.”BJP state unit president K.V. Singhdeo said: “If there is a prima facie evidence against the minister, it should have told the government to remove him from the ministry.