Lok Sabha polls: BJP's Surat candidate elected unopposed; cancel election, says Congress

A day before the elections in Surat, four proposers of Congress candidate say signatures are not theirs, after which they go 'missing'


NH Political Bureau

As campaigning intensifies for the second phase of the Lok Sabha election on 26 April, the BJP’s candidate for the Surat Lok Sabha constituency, Mukesh Dalal, has been declared elected unopposed, with the poll authority in Surat awarding him the certificate immediately.  

It is worth noting here that while Congress candidate Nilesh Kumbhani was disqualified, the other candidates mysteriously withdrew from the fray. Kumbhani’s papers were rejected by the returning officer and Surat collector Sourabh Pardhi, citing alleged discrepancies in Kumbhani's proposers' signatures.

Gujarat BJP president C.R. Paatil hailed Dalal's uncontested election as a significant triumph for the BJP, and attributed Surat's "first lotus" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Kumbhani's nomination was dismissed under section 36(2) of the Representation of the People Act 1951, which allows returning officers to reject nominations based on valid objections. 

Surprisingly, eight other candidates, including Pyarelal Bharati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), withdrew their nominations under murky circumstances, effectively making Dalal the sole contender.

Gujarat Congress chief Shaktisinh Gohil accused the BJP of sabotaging the nomination, and labelled the incident a "murder of democracy".

Congress MP and general-secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh strongly criticised the development, alleging a threat to democracy. He accused the BJP of manipulating the Surat polls owing to anxiety over the distress in India's MSME (medium, small and micro enterprises) sector, and public dissatisfaction. The Congress has urged the Election Commission of India to cancel the election in Surat and lodged 16 complaints against the BJP.

These included allegations of using religious symbols during campaigning and the uncontested victory of the BJP candidate.

Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi led the Congress delegation, and highlighted PM Modi's recent remarks against the Congress in the complaint.

"The way the prime minister of the country made an offensive statement against a community in Rajasthan is a violation of the Election Commission. The Election Commission should take strict action on this. This statement has raised questions on the Constitution of the country, the post of prime minister, and the credibility of the Election Commission," noted Singhvi.

"A day before the elections in Surat, four proposers of Congress together say that the signatures are not theirs, after which they go missing. The biggest thing is that all the leaders opposed to the BJP withdraw their nominations. In such a situation, Surat elections should be postponed," Singhvi told the media.

He also emphasised the gravity of the situation, particularly condemning Modi's comments as objectionable and violative of electoral laws. He asked Modi to retract the statement and clarify his stance. Singhvi stressed the need for appropriate action, asserting that violations of section 123 must be addressed impartially, regardless of an individual's status.

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