Updated: July 10, 2019 3:03:14 am
After much drama, as many as seven Congress candidates withdrew their nomination papers on Tuesday, paving the way for three BJP candidates to be elected unopposed in the ongoing election to Junagadh Municipal Corporation.
The Congress suffered a major jolt when all of its candidates for Ward No.3 withdrew their nomination papers on Tuesday, the last day for withdrawal. Congress candidates-Hasina Pathan, Manaz Bloch, Aslam Kureshi and Akram Kureshi went to the office of returning officer and withdrew their nomination papers. The withdrawal of nominations by Congress candidates left only three BJP candidates-Nisha Kariya, Abbas Kureshi and Sharifa Kureshi in the fray. Thus, they were declared the winners. “The fourth seat in this election will remain vacant as there is no valid contestant post withdrawal of papers by Congress nominees,” an election officer said.
The Congress accused the BJP of engineering the withdrawals. “Our candidates were under pressure from the BJP to withdraw their nomination papers. It is a pressure tactic by the BJP,” Hemang Vasavada, in-charge of Congress for the JMC election said.
Incidentally, the nomination papers of BJP candidate Harun Amadbhai were also rejected during the scrutiny process on Monday. He was found to have more than two children, thus rendering him ineligible to contest the polls. Those with more than two children, the third child having been born after 2006, when the two child rule was enforced, are not allowed to contest elections.
Polling for the 59 seats in 15 administrative wards of JMC is scheduled for July 21, and counting on July 23.
The Congress, which was voted out of power from the JMC in 2014, is in disarray. Former mayor Lakha Parmar is contesting as an independent candidate after he was not given a party ticket to fight the election. Vinu Amipara, president of the Junagadh city unit of Congress also tendered his resignation last week, protesting the manner in which tickets were allocated. Meanwhile, Congress MLA from Junagadh Bhikhabhai Joshi said he would support Parmar in the civic body election as the former mayor had helped him win the Assembly election in 2017.
Apart from the four withdrawals in Ward No.3, Congress candidates also withdrew their nomination papers for one seat each in Ward No.9 and 10 and for two seats in Ward No.13. The withdrawals came after a party candidate failed to submit his nomination papers in time. Thus, the party has now candidates on only 52 of 59 seats. While the BJP has won three seats uncontested, it will be vying for 56 others. The NCP will be contesting 25 seats while BSP will be contesting only one seat as the candidature of the rest of its candidates was rejected on Monday as they could not produce the mandates of their party in time. In all, 159 candidates, including 23 independents, are left in the fray.
But BJP in-charge for the JMC election Nitin Bhardwaj rejected the Congress’ charge. “The BJP absolutely has no role to play in Congress candidates withdrawing their nomination papers. Did anyone see any BJP leaders leading Congress candidates when they withdrew their candidature? They entered the election battle out of their free will and opted out of the contest out of their free will,” Bhardwaj said.
Nisha Kariya is wife of Dhiren Kariya, a Junagadh resident who is facing a number of criminal cases, including those filed under the
Prohibition Act. Bhardwaj, however, defended BJP’s decision to field Nisha from Ward No.3. “We had formed committees of local leaders to select candidates and Kariya’s name was suggested by one such committee. Just because a person is facing criminal cases, it does not make one a criminal. The name was suggested by people of that area,” said the BJP leader.
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