Saturday, February 24, 2024

Assam CM misused state funds to charter flights for BJP programs, weddings: Report

A collective report prepared by The Wire and Guwahati-based news website The CrossCurrent revealed that the Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had used state funds to meet personal A expenses.

The report published on Saturday claimed that Sarma had hired helicopters and chartered flights using money from the public treasury to campaign for BJP and attend weddings and other functions.

Matching the data provided by an RTI response on Sarma’s travel history with his social media posts, the report concludes that many of the journey allowances availed by  Sarma were covertly utilised for personal and party needs.

As argued by the report, the BJP leader allegedly violated the code of conduct at least five times by using state government-funded helicopters to campaign for the party’s candidates in Assam and other states.

Sarma even took money from the state funds for BJP’s campaigning in the 2022 Delhi municipal elections, the report added.

If the allegations are proven to be true, they would count as a violation of clause 7 of the model code of conduct issued by the Election Commission of India, which prohibits politicians from using the government’s official transport facilities including vehicles and aircraft, as well as manpower for the benefit of the party in power.

“The ministers shall not combine their official visit with electioneering work and shall not also make use of official machinery or personnel during the electioneering work,” the code states.

The report further revealed that between 2021 and 2023, Sarma travelled in chartered flights for 240 days, and most frequently from Guwahati to Delhi.

As per the findings of The Wire, the Assam CM attended at least five weddings for which he had used state government-chartered planes or helicopters.

He attended the wedding of Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio’s daughter on November 11, 2022, spending Rs 14,08,562 from the state treasury, the report claimed citing the RTI data.

In January 2023, Sarma went to Lucknow to attend the wedding of Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak’s daughter on an Assam government-funded chartered flight, with total expense accounting to Rs 23, 43,750 drawn from public money.

Out of the total Rs 45,62,05,755 spent by the Assam government for providing helicopters and chartered flights for top state officials, from May 2021 to September 2023, Sarma availed the largest portion.

From May 20 to July 18 of 2021, while the Assam government had to spend Rs 4,46,09,836 on all flights, Rs 3,30,03,834 was spent for Sarma’s travel alone, the report added.

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