BJP unfazed as Surat candidate’s unopposed win gives oppo fresh ammunition | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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BJP unfazed as Surat candidate’s unopposed win gives oppo fresh ammunition

Apr 24, 2024 09:33 AM IST

On Tuesday, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said Surat’s people have been disrespected by “not being allowed to vote”

After the first of the seven-phase general election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has set a target of winning 370 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, has one seat in its kitty. Mukesh Dalal, the party’s candidate in Gujarat’s Surat, was elected unopposed after discrepancies in the Congress candidate Nilesh Kumbhani’s election forms prompted the rejection of his nomination. Eight other candidates withdrew, and Dalal became the first lawmaker to be elected to the 18th Lok Sabha.

BJP's Surat Lok Sabha candidate Mukesh Dalal receiving his election certificate. (PTI)
BJP's Surat Lok Sabha candidate Mukesh Dalal receiving his election certificate. (PTI)

Dalal’s unopposed election is not unprecedented. But it has given the opposition more ammunition to target the BJP. The Congress dubbed Dalal’s election as “match-fixing”. Its alliance partner Samajwadi Party (SP) called it an example of how the ruling party “wants to take away people’s right to vote”.

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On Tuesday, SP leader and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said Surat’s people have been disrespected by “not being allowed to vote”.

Yadav is hoping that the charge against the BJP will resonate on the ground. His wife, Dimple Yadav, was elected unopposed in a 2012 by-poll from Uttar Pradesh’s Kannauj. The Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party chose not to field candidates, offering a walk over. The BJP’s candidate failed to file his nomination in time.

In the state polls too, candidates winning unopposed is not unheard of. At the beginning of the current election season, the BJP won 10 of 60 seats in Arunachal Pradesh unopposed.

The claim that the BJP will take away the right to vote comes close on the heels of the opposition’s charge that the BJP wants a brute majority in the Lok Sabha to be able to change the Constitution. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vehemently denied the charge.

The right to vote is protected by the Constitution’s Article 326 which says every citizen of India, not less than 18 years of age and not otherwise disqualified under the Constitution or any law made by an appropriate legislature on the ground of non-residency, unsoundness of mind, offence or corrupt or illegal conduct, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at any election.

The Congress also failed to have a second candidate to take Kumbhani’s place in Surat. Reports of Kumbhani being incommunicado and speculation that he will join the BJP have added a twist to the tale.

The Surat fiasco has raised question marks over Congress’s poll strategy in Gujarat, a BJP bastion. Ahead of the polls, Arjun Modhwadia in March became the third Congress lawmaker to defect to the BJP in four months after Chirag Patel and CJ Chavda. This was followed by mass defection of party workers in Dwarka.

The nomination forms had to be duly vetted by the party’s legal division and Congress should have had a second candidate ready. Kumbhani’s nomination was cancelled after he failed to produce even one of his three proposers before the returning officer.

The BJP remains unfazed. Senior party leaders said should Kumbhani switch sides, it would be in line with his democratic right to join any party of his choice.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Smriti covers an intersection of politics and governance. Having spent over a decade in journalism, she combines old fashioned leg work with modern story telling tools.

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