BJP's Mukesh Dalal was declared the winner after all 9 rivals withdrew their nomination or were disqualified
BJP's Mukesh Dalal was declared the winner after all 9 rivals withdrew their nomination or were disqualified

BJP wins Surat seat after poll officer rejects Congress candidate's nomination papers

The nomination papers of Congress candidate Nilesh Kumbhani were rejected by the Returning Officer (RO), Surat Collector Sourabh Pardhi, due to alleged discrepancies in the signatures of their proposers.

Even as campaigning for the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on April 26 gains momentum, the BJP on Monday opened its account with Mukesh Dalal being declared winner from the Surat parliamentary constituency after several withdrawals and disqualifications of opposition candidates.

Dalal was proclaimed the victor just one day after the nomination papers of Congress candidate Nilesh Kumbhani were invalidated due to purported inconsistencies in the signatures of his proposers. In response, the Congress party nominated a replacement candidate, Suresh Padsala. However, Padsala's papers were also subsequently annulled.

The candidatures were dismissed under Section 36(2) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which permits the RO to examine and reject nominations based on valid objections.

After the withdrawal of Congress candidates from the race, eight contenders withdrew their candidacies in a day. 'As all the eight candidates who had successfully filed their nomination for the Surat Lok Sabha seat have withdrawn their candidature, Dalal has been elected unopposed,” stated Returning Officer Sourabh Pardhi.

The Surat Congress leader, however, asserted that all these occurrences had been premeditated well in advance, yet the Congress high command remained oblivious.

In a telephonic talk with the New Indian Express, former opposition leader of Surat Congress, Pappan Togadia, claimed, "I alerted the Congress leaders and the South Gujarat Congress in-charge, Usha Naidu, about Nilesh's dubious activities, expressing concerns that a scheme was underway to reject Nilesh Kumbhani's form. However, my warnings went unheeded. Even today, I reiterate my belief that Nilesh will soon join the BJP, as this outcome was predetermined."

The moves commenced on Saturday, with Dinesh Jodhani, the election agent of the BJP candidate, expressing doubts about the legitimacy of signatures on Kumbhani's nomination papers.

Subsequent scrutiny uncovered accusations of signature forgery, as individuals purportedly endorsing Kumbhani denied the authenticity of the signatures attributed to them. Kumbhani responded by alleging that his supporters had been abducted, adding further complexity to an already convoluted situation.

Speculation swirls around Kumbhani's purported connections to former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders Alpesh Kathiriya and Dharmik Malaviya, who resigned amid suspicious circumstances last week. Kathiriya and Malaviya, both of whom contested the 2022 assembly elections alongside Kumbhani, are suspected of involvement in the unfolding events.

Adding to the intrigue, it has come to light that Kumbhani's proposers are close relatives, raising doubts about his broader support within the party. Complicating matters further, all three proposers of Kumbhani have vanished since the controversy emerged. Affidavits received by the district election office allege the falsification of signatures on Kumbhani's nomination forms, intensifying the crisis surrounding his candidacy.

The situation escalated when eight other candidates, including Pyarelal Bharati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), withdrew their nominations under unclear circumstances, effectively leaving Dalal as the lone contender.

Meanwhile, the withdrawals have prompted allegations of foul play from the opposition, with Gujarat Congress chief Shaktisinh Gohil claiming the nomination was sabotaged by the BJP, describing the incident as a "murder of democracy".

Gohil also said that the Congress would challenge the RO's decision in the high court, alleging a conspiracy to eliminate the opposition through procedural tactics. "This is not just a setback for the Congress, but a blow to the democratic fabric of our nation," Gohil said during a press conference.

The remaining 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state will go to the polls on May 7.

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