With Congress’ probable candidate for the Khadoor Sahib by-elections, former MLA Ramanjit Sikki, expressing his inability to leave the Golden Temple premises till culmination of his annual sewa on January 31, his decision may put both the party and the state election commission in a bind.
The last date for filing of nomination papers is January 27 and the candidate has to make an oath or affirmation in person before officers authorised by the election commission a day before the scrutiny of the nomination papers (January 28).
While rules allow a candidate confined in a prison or under preventive detention, in hospital or elsewhere owing to illness and someone who is out of India to be administered the oath before the officer in-charge of the respective place or country’s representative, there are no rules for someone who expresses his inability to leave a religious place.
When contacted, Punjab chief electoral officer VK Singh said they have not encountered such a situation and he would need to find out what the rules permit.
Incommunicado owing to the annual sewa, tracing Sikki inside the Golden Temple was an arduous task. After looking for him at the parikarma of the temple, he was found in the Darshani Deori. HT talked to him after he came out and sat near the Akal Takht Sahib.
“I was deeply anguished by the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib and I did not ask the party before resigning as MLA. The state government has done nothing to address the problem. Neither the culprits were arrested nor was anybody held responsible for the death of two protesters in police firing at Behbal Kalan in Faridkot,” he said.
Sikki said he would abide by the wishes of his people and the Congress high command. “For me, the people and my party are supreme. If they ask me to contest, I will,” he said. On EC’s provision of candidate’s in-person presence for oath, he said, “If God has decided something for me, He will show the way. I am not thinking about this at present.”
The Khadoor Sahib seat is slated for a bypoll on February 13 and Sikki’s name has been approved by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the announcement in this regard is likely on Monday. Sikki made his electoral debut in the 2012 state polls and defeated Akali stalwart Ranjit Singh Brahmpura. The Akali Dal is fielding the veteran’s son Ravinder Brahmpura to reclaim its old bastion.
EC official may have to visit Sikki
As per EC rules, if a candidate is unable to appear before the returning officer or the assistant returning officer, the oath or affirmation may be made before any other person nominated by the election commission on an application addressed to it.
The EC may have to send its representative to visit Sikki if the Congress makes an application on his behalf. The merit of such an application will, however, be decided by the EC.