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Assam CM spent state funds on personal use, BJP campaigns: Report

Assam Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma has allegedly used state funds to hire helicopters and charted aircraft to attend weddings and campaign for the Bharatiya Janta Party, said a report by The Wire and the Guwahati-based news website The CrossCurrent.

The news reports cited state government’s response to an RTI application.

The research combined Sarma’s social media posts on those dates with the trip dates specified in the Right to Information response, based on incomplete information provided by the Assam government.

The BJP politician reportedly broke the model code of conduct at least five times, according to a story published by The Wire on Saturday, by utilising helicopters sponsored by the state to campaign for the party’s candidates in Assam and other states.

Sarma even reportedly used public funds to campaign for the BJP in the 2022 Delhi municipal elections.

The Election Commission has released criteria for political parties and candidates to follow during elections, known as the model code of conduct (MCC). According to clause 7 of the code, legislators are not allowed to promote the political party in power by utilising official cars, planes, or staff.

The rule stipulates that ministers cannot conduct campaigning while on an official tour and cannot use government resources or staff while conducting such activities.

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Following the release of the report, The Assam chief minister’s office called The Wire’s report “mischievous, misleading, and a lazy hit job” that was based on selective reading of some of Sarma’s social media posts.

It further stated that social events like weddings or gatherings for condolences can take place in conjunction with Sarma’s official trips to any district in Assam or its neighboring states.

“Compared to all the official visits undertaken by HCM [honorable chief minister] since May 2021, such coincidences are far and few,” the chief minister’s office said. “It is appalling to see the authors of this story make sweeping conjectures based on incidental social programs that HCM has attended.”

According the report, Sarma took 240 days between 2021 and 2023 to travel by chartered aircraft, the majority of which were from Guwahati to Delhi. On November 11, 2022, he attended the wedding of Nagaland Chief Minister daughter, which cost the Assam exchequer Rs 14,08,562, and continued to further attended five weddings where the state government had rented helicopters or leased planes.

According to the article, Sarma also traveled to Lucknow on January 31, 2023, on a chartered airplane paid for by the Assam government, to attend the daughter of Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak’s wedding.

The Assam exchequer spent Rs 45,62,05,755 on helicopters and chartered flights for high-ranking state officials between May 2021 and September 2023. Sarma utilised the most flights out of all of them.

Between May 20, 2021, and July 18, 2021, the Assam government spent Rs 4,46,09,836 on all flights. Out of this, Rs 3,30,03,834 was spent only for Sarma’s travel, the report said.

Reacting to this information, CM’s office further denied the allegations and stated that social events like weddings or gatherings for condolences can take place in conjunction with Sarma’s official trips to any district in Assam or its neighboring states.

“Compared to all the official visits undertaken by HCM [honorable chief minister] since May 2021, such coincidences are far and few, It is appalling to see the authors of this story make sweeping conjectures based on incidental social programs that HCM has attended.”

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