BJP wins Surat Lok Sabha seat after Congress proposers back out at last minute

Congress party’s lawyer Babu Mangukiya said they will move the High Court and Supreme Court challenging the decision.
Surat district Returning Officer Sourabh Pardhi handing over election certificate to BJP's Mukesh Dalal
Surat district Returning Officer Sourabh Pardhi handing over election certificate to BJP's Mukesh Dalal Screengrab
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The electoral battle in Surat took an unexpected turn after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Mukesh Dalal was elected unopposed from the Surat Lok Sabha seat in Gujarat. Surat District Collector handed over the Member of Parliament (MP) certificate to BJP's Mukesh Dalal on Monday, April 22, which was the last day to withdraw nominations.  

The nomination of Congress’ candidate Nilesh Kumbhani was rejected on Sunday, April 21 over alleged discrepancies. Election Commission officials also rejected the nomination of Suresh Padsala, the substitute candidate for Congress, on similar grounds. Eight other candidates, including Pyarelal Bharti of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and independent candidate, withdrew their nominations leaving Mukesh alone in the fray. 

The decision was announced by the district Returning Officer, Sourabh Pardhi, who noted that the signatures on the nomination forms needed to be more genuine. According to reports, Ramesh Balchand Polra, Jagdish Savaliya and Dhruvin Dhameliya, who were the proposers for Kumbhani’s nomination, said that they had not signed the nomination paper. Similarly, Suresh Padsala’s proposer Vishal Koladiya also denied signing his form.

The controversy arose after Dinesh Jodhani, the election agent for the BJP candidate Mukesh Dalal, raised objections against the Congress candidate. In response, Kumbhani defended the authenticity of the signatures, suggesting that a handwriting expert and the signatories could verify them. However, the Returning Officer upheld the decision based on affidavits and additional evidence presented during the scrutiny. Congress party’s lawyer Babu Mangukiya said they will move High Court and Supreme Court challenging the decision.

Mukesh Dalal, the BJP candidate, has served as the Chairman of the Surat Municipal Corporation's Standing Committee and is the current General Secretary of the BJP's city unit.

BJP Gujarat president CR Paatil congratulated Mukesh saying, “Surat offered first lotus to Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendrabhai Modi!! Congratulations and best wishes to Mr. Mukeshbhai Dalal, candidate for Surat Lok Sabha seat, for being elected unopposed!!”

Congress leaders, including the party’s general secretary (in-charge) Jairam Ramesh, opposed the election stating that the “Democracy is under threat”. “Our elections, our democracy, Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Constitution – all are under a generational threat. This is the most important election of our lifetime!”, he said.

The Congress party, led by late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, reclaimed the Surat seat in 1980 and maintained its hold in the 1984 elections. However, the tide turned in 1989 when the BJP made its mark with Kashiram Rana securing the seat, initiating a series of victories in 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2004.

In a notable 2009 election, BJP's Darshana Jardosh became the first female MP from Surat. This constituency, which comprises Assembly seats in Olpad, Varachha Road, Surat West, Surat East, Karanj, Surat North, and Katargam, continued to favour the BJP.

In 2019, Darshana Vikram Jardosh secured a decisive win with 795,651 votes, significantly ahead of the Congress' Ashok Patel, who garnered 247,421 votes. Similarly, in the 2014 elections, Jardosh won with 718,412 votes, while the Congress' Bhupat Bhai Desai trailed with 185,222 votes. Veteran BJP leader Kashiram Rana notably served as the MP from Surat for six terms, demonstrating the party's strong influence in the region. Additionally, the constituency boasts a distinguished history with Morarji Desai, the 7th Prime Minister of India, who served as its MP for five terms. Since 1989, the constituency has consistently elected BJP leaders with substantial margins.

(With IANS inputs)

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