Independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh has accused an EC official of ‘tampering’ with the process of scrutinising Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s nomination papers.

Will Nikhil Kumaraswamys nomination be rejected Here is an explainer
news Elections 2019 Monday, April 01, 2019 - 19:59

On Sunday, independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh accused Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and the district administration of working in favour of the former's son and JD(S)'s Mandya candidate, Nikhil Kumaraswamy. Two days after Nikhil filed his nomination on March 25, Sumalatha’s polling agent MA Madan Kumar submitted an objection - a written complaint - to the Returning Officer (RO) and Mandya Deputy Commissioner N Manjushree and general observer Ranjeet Kumar J, pointing out the discrepancies in his nomination papers. According to norms, the RO is supposed to pass an order on such an objection. However, Sumalatha said no orders have been passed in this regard.

Sumalatha, who is contesting from Mandya against JD(S) candidate Nikhil Kumaraswamy, is also fighting the might of JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda, CM Kumaraswamy and Ramanagara MLA Anitha Kumaraswamy in their bastion.

Since the scrutiny of nominations began on March 27, several controversial questions regarding Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s nomination have been raised. Now, a series of allegations and counter-allegations have resulted in massive speculations that Nikhil’s nomination may be rejected.

Were there technical errors in Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s nomination papers? Did the Returning Officer (RO) of Mandya and the Election Commission officials tamper with the process of scrutinising his nomination papers?

TNM traces the timeline of events.

How the confusion began

The last date for filing nomination papers for Lok Sabha elections, or making any changes to it, was March 26 for the first phase of polling in Karnataka.

A day before, on March 25, amidst much fanfare, Nikhil Kumaraswamy submitted his nomination papers to the Deputy Commissioner of Mandya, N Manjushree, at 2.43 pm.

On March 27, the Returning Officer, who is also the Mandya Deputy Commissioner (DC), took up the scrutiny of all nomination papers filed for the Mandya segment. This was done in the presence of election general observers Ranjeeth Kumar J and Rani Nagar at 11.50 am.

On March 27, Manjushree stated that Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s nomination papers were in order.

However, Sumalatha’s polling agent MA Madan Kumar claimed otherwise. On the same day, he submitted a written complaint to Manjushree and Ranjeeth, claiming that the four sets of nomination papers filed by Nikhil Kumaraswamy on March 25 were not in order. Madan stated that Nikhil had not filled in all the columns on his Form 26 (election affidavit).

Madan Kumar then stated that CCTV footage from the DC’s office will show that two days after the last date for filing nominations was over, Nikhil Kumaraswamy submitted a fresh Form 26 on March 27 at 10.20 am.

“Nikhil submitted fresh papers an hour before the scrutiny process begins. I complained to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on March 27, stating that the RO (Manjushree) accepted the nomination papers despite the objection I filed,” Madan told TNM.

Sumalatha too stepped up the attack against the RO. During an election rally on March 28, Sumalatha accused Manjushree of violating the rules to help Nikhil. She claimed that JD(S) leaders in Mandya, including CM HD Kumaraswamy, were pressurising Manjushree.

On March 29, Manjushree held a press conference in Mandya to counter Sumalatha’s allegations. She said she had followed due process and had not indulged in any illegal activity.

According to Madan, the CCTV footage at Manjushree’s office had recorded Nikhil filing his nomination again, which is against the rules.

“After Manjushree’s press conference, I released a video of the scrutiny of nomination papers. The footage that the DC office gave us as proof that nothing was done wrong was tampered with. You can see the date stamps for yourself and find what went wrong,” Madan added.

On Saturday, the Election Commission of India directed the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka, Sanjiv Kumar to look into the matter. Sanjiv Kumar held talks with officials of the Mandya district administration. Sanjiv Kumar later told the media that since the nomination papers were accepted by the RO, the EC could not intervene in the issue.

On Sunday, Sumalatha accused general observer Ranjeeth Kumar of colluding with the JD(S).  Then, the Mysuru regional commissioner, TK Anil Kumar, was brought in by the ECI to conduct a probe into the accusations of procedural lapses by the Mandya Deputy Commissioner Manjushree.

What comes next

According to an Election Commission officer, the last date for scrutinising nomination papers for phase 2 of the elections was on March 29 and hence, it is unlikely that Nikhil's nomination would be rejected now. "Sumalatha can approach the court but she has indicated that she will not do so," the EC official added.

Meanwhile, Mysuru regional commissioner TK Anil Kumar, acting on a direction from the Election Commission of India, has initiated an inquiry into Sumalatha’s charges. Madan stated that he has recorded the claims of both parties.

“He took my statement and also Manjushree’s and said he would submit the report to the ECI. I have also spoken about how the DC office tampered with the CCTV footage and I have submitted a copy of it to Anil Kumar. He said he will submit it to the ECI and that we would have to wait till EC makes a decision,” Madan added.

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