Assam chief minister under scanner for receiving funds from tea industry

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS,

Guwahati : The Election Commission is set to hear a complaint against Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for allegedly violating the model code of conduct by taking a “political donation” from the tea industry.

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Assam’s main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) lodged a written complaint Monday with Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, accusing the chief minister of misusing his power by taking money from the tea industry.

“The Election Commissioner told us that the full bench of the EC would hear the case Thursday and take necessary action,” senior AGP leader Kamala Kalita told IANS Tuesday.

Kalita, along with other AGP leaders, Monday met Chawla here to lodge the complaint. Chawla arrived here on a two-day visit to review the security situation ahead of the two-phased polls April 16 and April 23.

“Political donations are acceptable, but it was tantamount to misusing the chief minister’s office when he admitted to receiving funds for elections from the tea industry,” Kalita said.

The chief minister sparked a controversy when he told a press conference in Guwahati that he was in Kolkata last week and received funds for the elections.

“Yes I took money in cheque for the party. There is nothing wrong in accepting political donations � all parties do take money from business houses during elections,” Gogoi told reporters.

But the chief minister’s admission of receiving funds has now turned into a major political issue.

All the opposition parties have also expressed apprehension about possible rigging by the ruling Congress party in Assam.

“We told the election commissioner that there are genuine fears about possible rigging likely to be attempted by the Congress party and hence (we are) not very sure of free and fair polling,” said Aditya Langthasa, a senior leader of the Asom United Democratic Front.

Similar apprehensions were expressed by the AGP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well.

“The Congress has already made a blueprint to manipulate the elections and that is why they were going about making claims of winning 13 of the 14 parliamentary seats,” AGP MP Sarbananda Sonowal said.

The Congress refuted the charges.

“The AGP-BJP is simply jittery and almost accepting defeat by making excuses of rigging even before the vote,” Assam Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi told IANS.