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Suspended UPPL Member’s Money Photo Sparks Controversy

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KOKRAJHAR: March 27: A viral picture purportedly of a suspended United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) member sleeping with currency notes has triggered a controversy in Assam ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

The opposition grabbed the opportunity and slammed the BJP-led alliance, of which UPPL is a part in Assam, saying the ruling block is “wallowing in the quagmire of corruption”.

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In the image, the authenticity of which PTI could not independently verify, Benjamin Basumatary, identified in the photograph as a Village Council Development Committee (VCDC) member of UPPL, is seen sleeping on a bed wearing only a traditional towel with a heap of Rs 500 denomination notes.

“The photo that has gone viral is five year old. It has been made viral due to political conspiracy. We will find out who has done this. I don’t know who has done this,” he told reporters when asked about the picture.

Basumatary claimed that some people had blackmailed him then also after he was clicked in that pose.

“Five years ago, I had taken a loan of Rs 3 lakh for some work from my sister. That particular night, some of us were having a party and my partner clicked the photo with the money I had borrowed in a fun moment,” he added.

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The UPPL sought to distance itself from the image, stating that Basumatary has been suspended and removed from the VCDC post.

UPPL chief and Bodoland Territorial Council chief executive member Pramod Boro claimed that the Harisingha Block Committee of the party had recommended disciplinary action against Basumatary on January 5 this year and accordingly, he was suspended on January 10 over the photograph.

“Additionally, the BTC government suspended and removed him from the post of VCDC Chairman on 10th February 2024. I urge all media outlets and social media users to refrain from linking Basumatry with UPPL,” he said in a post on X.

Boro further said that Basumatary’s actions are solely his own responsibility and the party is not accountable for any of his personal acts.

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Sharing the viral image, All India Congress Committee in a post on X said: “Benjamin is an active leader of UPPL party. UPPL is an important ally of BJP in Assam. This picture, which came amid elections, shows that BJP and its allies are wallowing in the quagmire of corruption.”

It further said that the BJP has selectively made alliances with those people “who can loot the country” like them.

Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia of Congress in a post on X said: “Shocking and disgraceful! A viral photo depicts a #UPPL leader asleep with bundles of cash. This blatant display of corruption demands immediate action.”

He asked Assam chief minister to “prove the integrity of your numerous tied agencies” and conduct a thorough investigation into the case.

Boro, on the other hand, criticised Saikia by terming his comments as “unfortunate” and said that he made the statement on a “fake news” instantly without verification.

“Being a LoP it’s disgraceful that you have tried to defame the strong credentials and foundations of UPPL, which was formed with a lot of sacrifices in the interests of Bodoland,” he said while sharing a clarification video of Basumatary.

Raijor Dal chief and MLA Akhil Gogoi said, “This is BJP, this is an ally of BJP. This is what actually the motto of BJP signifies: ‘NAA KHAOONGA, NAA KHANE DUNGA’.”

Reacting to Gogoi also, Boro said that a “malicious photo” of Basumatary has been widely spread by media and social media users associating it with UPPL, which is not related to the suspended member.

“The photo was taken five years ago by Basumatary’s friends while they were partying and he was blackmailed with this photo thereafter. The cash in the photo was of Benjamin Basumatary’s sister,” the BTC chief said. (PTI)

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