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No Election in Surat: Is This 'Operation Black Lotus' Even before the Candidate Is Elected?

Reports say that the proposers of the Congress candidates whose papers have been cancelled were members of the Surat City BJP 'legal cell.'
Mukesh Dalal and (right) the election certificate being shared on social media.

New Delhi: The seat in Surat won uncontested by the BJP, with nomination papers of two Congress candidates cancelled, other candidates withdrawing their nomination, is still not a closed chapter.

BJP’s Mukesh Dalal was declared the winner without a single vote having to be polled, after all the other eight candidates in the fray withdrew.

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

The Indian Express writes that the affidavits of the three proposers of Congress candidate Nilesh Kumbhani and of the dummy candidate, Suresh Padsala, were “notarised by a member of the Surat City BJP legal cell.”

This has been claimed by the head of the city BJP legal cell, Kiran Ghoghari, to the newspaper. “I extended professional help”, he told the newspaper. The daily reports that he charges Rs 2,500 for each affidavit, though the usual fee he charges is Rs 500 a piece.

The (now victorious) BJP candidate’s agent, Dinesh Jodhani raised an objection over the three signatures on Kumbhani’s papers, and another proposer of Padsala, alleging forgery. Saurabh Parghi, the District Collector (and Election Officer) for Surat, held a “special hearing” on Sunday and upheld the objections. The newspaper also reports that the four proposers appeared before the Surat Crime Branch and provided the basis for the cancellation of the nominations.

Go Goa then BJP?

India Today reports that “Congress workers have protested outside the home of Kumbhani, the party’s candidate from Gujarat’s Surat Lok Sabha seat whose nomination form was rejected due to alleged discrepancies, as he was likely to join the BJP.”

The New Indian Express reports that Nilesh Kumbhani is “unreachable” and Prafull Togadia, Congress’ former leader in Surat Corporation has told the newspaper that Kumbhani is in Goa and will be there till he “reaches a settlement with the BJP.”

Kumbhani has been a Congress corporator and fought the 2022 assembly elections, without any success, as a party candidate in Kamrej in Surat.

Analysts have been seeing the no-contest as a sign of further distortions in the electoral process in India and as another sign of the distorted playing field. Professor Tarunabh Khaitan, of LSE, and formerly Dean, at Oxford University, the writer of a seminal essay called Killing the Constitution by a Thousand Cuts, remarked, “Opposition candidate bought out before the first vote is cast, BJP candidate elected unopposed. Operation Black Lotus even before the candidate has been elected. The power of corrupt money extorted through the unconstitutional Electoral Bonds. #MotherOfDemocracy.”

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