Updated April 22nd, 2024 at 18:02 IST

TOP STORY/ First Win of Lok Sabha Elections: How Surat Became A Walkover For BJP's Mukesh Dalal

BJP's Mukesh Dalal created history by winning the Surat Lok Sabha seat unopposed.

Reported by: Digital Desk
How Surat Became A Walkover For BJP? | Image:ANI
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Ahmedabad:  In an unprecedented turn of events, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won the Surat Lok Sabha constituency without facing any opposition. The cancellation of Congress candidate Nilesh Kumbhani's nomination, along with the withdrawal of seven independent candidates, has effectively cleared the path for BJP's Mukesh Dalal to claim the prestigious constituency. 

The development marks the first victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. "I declare that Mukeshkumar Chandrakant Dalal, sponsored by the BJP, has been duly elected to fill the seat in the House from Surat parliamentary constituency," district collector cum election officer Saurabh Pardhi told media persons as he handed over the Certificate of Election to Dalal. 

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Speaking to reporters, after being elected unopposed from the Surat Lok Sabha seat, BJP's Mukesh Dalal said, "We were asking votes for a developed India. Today in Gujarat and in the country the first lotus has bloomed...Congress' form was rejected and the rest of the candidates withdrew their forms by supporting PM Narendra Modi's vision of a developed India..." Voting for all 26 constituencies in Gujarat is scheduled for May 7, but with the result of Surat seat already out, polling will be held on 25 seats.  For the unversed, the Congress is contesting 24 of 26 seats in Gujarat while two constituencies are allotted to AAP as per the seat-sharing deal. 

What Had Happened?

Except for Dalal, all 8 candidates in the fray from Surat- 4 Independents, 3 from smaller parties and Pyarelal Bharti of Bahujan Samaj Party- withdrew their nomination papers on the last day, as per the Surat district election office.

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Besides, the candidature of Congress' Nilesh Kumbhani from Surat seat was rejected on Sunday after the district returning officer prima facie found discrepancies in the signature of the proposers.

In his reply, Kumbhani submitted that the proposers had put their signatures in his presence, and a handwriting expert should examine their signatures. They also should be cross-examined for the benefit of justice, he said.

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The returning officer ordered the rejection of the nomination forms after considering the affidavits submitted by the proposers and related evidence and after ascertaining the identity of the proposers and ensuring they were not threatened or were under pressure.

Even the presence of the signatories was not found in the video footage examined at the request of the Congress candidate's lawyer, the Returning Officer stated.

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The nomination form of Suresh Padsala, the Congress' substitute candidate from Surat, was also invalidated.

Gujarat CM Congratulates Surat BJP Candidate

Taking to X, Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel said,"Hearty congratulations and best wishes to Surat Lok Sabha seat candidate Shri Mukeshbhai Dalal for being elected unopposed. This is the beginning of the historic victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party in India, including Gujarat, in the Lok Sabha elections. This is a clear indication of the lotus blossoming with BJP's resounding victory in all 26 seats in Gujarat and the realization of the resolve of #AbKiBaar400Paar under the leadership of Hon'ble Modiji.

Gujarat Congress to Move HC

Meanwhile, Gujarat Congress chief Shaktisinh Gohil alleged the nomination form of the party's candidate from Surat Lok Sabha constituency was rejected at the behest of BJP which is "rattled" as it has sensed defeat in elections. Terming the development as a "murder of democracy", Gohil said the Congress will file a petition in the Gujarat High Court against the Returning Officer's decision to cancel the nomination form of the party candidate Nilesh Kumbhani over alleged discrepancies in the signatures of proposers in the form.  

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"The BJP is rattled as it has realised that the situation is not favourable for them this time (in elections). It hatched a conspiracy to get the forms of Congress candidates cancelled by hook or by crook. Kumbhani was their target ever since he filed his nomination form because BJP sensed defeat in Surat seat," Gohil told a press conference.

He alleged that attempts were also made to threaten Kumbhani. The senior Congress leader said the nomination form cannot be cancelled after the nomination form was filed solely on the proposers' claim that signatures in the form do not belong to them.

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The proposers, in their affidavits, stated they had not signed the forms themselves, as per the Returning Officer.

Gohil also claimed that the nomination form of Aam Aadmi Party candidate from the Surat-East assembly seat in the 2022 elections was not cancelled even though two proposers had claimed that they had not signed his nomination form.

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The returning officer had refused to cancel the nomination form, saying discrepancies in the proposers' signatures cannot be the basis for the cancellation of the form, claimed Gohil.

"At that time, the form was not rejected because the AAP candidate would have helped the BJP by splitting votes. But this time, our form was rejected at the behest of BJP because the ruling party realised that it was going to lose Surat seat in the Lok Sabha elections," the Congress leader said.

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He sought the intervention of the Election Commission into the issue.

"This is a murder of democracy. We will file a petition in the High Court against this order (of the Returning Officer) and also knock on the doors of the Supreme Court if needed," said Gohil.

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He said the returning officer should have taken the help of forensic experts to match the signatures of proposers in the nomination form and in their affidavits, which they submitted later claiming they had not signed the nomination form.

"The returning officer could have taken the help of handwriting experts to find out if the signatures in the form were genuine or forged. Moreover, the law does not have a provision to cancel the nomination form on this basis. The Election Commission can file a case of forgery if it wants, but it cannot cancel the form. Thus, Kumbhani's form has been cancelled illegally," said Gohil.  

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Mohammad Shafi Bhat's victory in 1989

The last time we saw such a thing was way back in 1989 when Mohammad Shafi Bhat won from Srinagar without facing any competition. Since then, our elections have been known for their fierce competition and vibrant democracy, with candidates battling it out for every vote. 
 

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Published April 22nd, 2024 at 15:07 IST