Voters deserve clarity on Surat candidates’ case

Even if one were to believe that the BJP was a clear frontrunner in the constituency, such practices amount to strangulating the democratic process.
(inset) BJP's Surat Lok Sabha seat candidate Mukesh Dalal.
(inset) BJP's Surat Lok Sabha seat candidate Mukesh Dalal.(Photo |EPS, PTI)

As the parliamentary election moves into the second phase, Gujarat has thrown up a rare situation: the BJP candidate from Surat has been elected unopposed. This disruption of the electoral process had the ingredients of a Bollywood plot. The Congress candidate’s nomination was rejected as the signatures of his proposers were found to be forged. The replacement candidate, who would have become the official nominee in the event of rejection of the first candidature, faced a similar awkward situation and was thrown out of the fray.

The authorities said their nomination papers were invalidated due to inconsistencies in the signatures of their proposers. Then all independent candidates for the seat, over half a dozen of them, withdrew their nominations. The Congress candidate has since gone incommunicado, raising speculation about his intent. All these create a blot on India’s electoral tapestry.

It reminds us of the 2016 political drama where Subhash Chandra, a media baron and BJP-backed independent candidate, was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Haryana, after 14 Congress votes were declared invalid as the MLAs used a wrong type of ink. The matter went to the court, but eventually Chandra emerged victorious. In the Surat case, there are two possibilities. One, the two candidates themselves might have forged the signatures of their proposers. If not, the proposers might have submitted false affidavits afterwards to claim that the signatures were not theirs.

Either case would be fit for trial under the Indian Penal Code. But why did all the independents call it quits en masse, leaving just one candidate in the fray? Were they under pressure to do so? Who snatched away the right of people of Surat to vote? We ought to know exactly what transpired.

Even if one were to believe that the BJP was a clear frontrunner in the constituency, such practices amount to strangulating the democratic process. It is not the first time someone has been elected unopposed, but it has been extremely rare in recent years and the tendency does not augur well for the world’s largest democracy.

The opposition has raised a stink over the alleged discrepancy. But it is unlikely to have any significant impact in the state, which in 2019 wholeheartedly voted saffron. With Surat out of the reckoning, the remaining 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state go to the polls on May 7.

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