Congress’ Surat candidate Nilesh Kumbhani’s nomination papers invalidated after proposers deny they signed his form

Now, there is no Congress candidate in the fray for Surat Lok Sabha seat

April 21, 2024 01:53 pm | Updated 05:29 pm IST - Surat

Congress’ Surat candidate Nilesh Kumbhani.

Congress’ Surat candidate Nilesh Kumbhani. | Photo Credit: Nilesh Kumbhani Facebook

In a huge setback to Gujarat Congress, nomination papers of the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Surat Nilesh Kumbhani rejected after his three proposers claimed in an affidavit to the district election officer that they had not signed his nomination form.

On April 21, the District Election Officer (DEO) Sourabh Pardhi rejected the nomination of the Congress candidate on the ground that his three propers failed to turn up before the DEO to support his nomination form.

Also, the nomination papers of the substitute candidate of the party has also been rejected on the same ground that the proposers have denied having signed the form.

Now, there is no Congress candidate in the fray for Surat Lok Sabha seat.

The leaders of the opposition party have alleged that the proposers were “kidnapped” by the ruling party with the help of the Police and state machinery in order to get the candidate out of the race.

Trouble for Surat Congress candidate

The district election officer (DEO) on April 20 sought a reply from Nilesh Kumbhani, Congress' candidate in Surat Lok Sabha constituency of Gujarat, after his three proposers claimed that they had not signed his nomination form.

Elsewhere in the BJP-ruled State, officials will also decide on objections to the nomination forms of Jenny Thummar, Congress candidate from Amreli; and Umesh Makwana, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Bhavnagar.

Surat DEO Sourabh Pardhi granted Mr. Kumbhani time till 11 a.m. on April 21 to furnish his response.

Interestingly, the sole proposer of Suresh Padsala, who is Congress' alternative candidate from Surat, also denied that he signed the nomination form, prompting Gujarat Congress chief Shaktisinh Gohil to allege that the ruling BJP was trying to get his party's candidates invalidated.

During the hearing before the Surat DEO on April 20 evening, both Mr. Kumbhani and Mr. Padsala sought time till April 21.

"Proposers of main candidate (Kumbhani) and the substitute (Padsala) have denied having signed the papers. We have been given time till 11 a.m. on Sunday before the final order is passed. The party will submit a detailed argument," Congress spokesperson Naishad Desai said.

Mr. Kumbhani said his proposers Ramesh Polara, Jagdish Savaliya and Dhuvin Dhameliya were unreachable at the moment, but he would contact them soon.

AAP leader Gopal Italia alleged that Mr. Kumbhani's proposers had been kidnapped, and said that a complaint had been registered with police.

"They were pressurised to submit affidavits denying they had signed the nomination forms," he claimed.

Congress and AAP are contesting the elections in Gujarat in alliance. Congress has fielded candidates on 24 out of 26 seats, while AAP is contesting Bhavnagar and Bharuch.

Mr. Gohil said the party took all care to ensure there were no errors in the nomination forms of its candidates.

"Despite this, the BJP raised objections in 14 places. In Surat, the BJP feared that Congress would win, so they used police to put pressure on the proposers to file affidavits about not having signed the forms," Mr. Gohil alleged.

"All four proposers, three of the main candidate and another of the substitute candidate, have made similar claims," he said, adding that Congress will move the High Court and Supreme Court over the issue.

The BJP's Bhavnagar candidate Nimuben Bambhaniya claimed that there was a discrepancy in the income details in the affidavit filed by Mr. Makwana during the 2022 assembly election and the information in his present affidavit. He also did not fully disclose his education qualifications, she said in her complaint.

In Amreli, BJP's Ravu Khuman alleged that Mr. Thummar did not disclose full details of her property in her affidavit. "We have submitted our objection and it is for the officer to decide," he said.

Ajay Dahiya, DEO, Amreli, said Mr. Thummar was given time till 4 p.m. to provide a clarification. There would be a final hearing on April 21 morning after which a decision will be taken, he said.

(with PTI inputs)

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