Varanasi-based lawyer Prakash Bajaj, whose nomination as an Independent candidate for the Rajya Sabha election was cancelled on “technical scrutiny”, has written to the Chief Election Commissioner of India alleging conspiracy by Returning Officer (RO) Ashok Kumar with a motive to help the candidature of BSP candidate Ramji Gautam.
Seeking an “inquiry into the criminal acts committed by the RO in connivance with other officials”, Bajaj, who was backed by the Samajwadi Party, has urged the Election Commission (EC) to withhold the declaration of the Rajya Sabha results pending the inquiry.
The election to the 10 Rajya Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh took a dramatic turn last Monday when Bajaj, backed by the Samajwadi Party, filed the nomination as the eleventh candidate, thereby opening the contest.
Before he had filed his nomination papers, 10 candidates were in the fray – eight from the BJP, one from SP and one from BSP.
With each candidate requiring votes of 37 MLAs to win, the BJP with 304 MLAs fielded eight candidates, the Samajwadi Party with 48 MLAs fielded one candidate, while the BSP with just 18 MLAs took all by surprise when it also fielded its candidate.
After Bajaj filed his nomination papers as an Independent on the last day of filing of nominations, there was a revolt in the BSP camp with seven of its MLAs publicly opposing the party candidate after meeting SP chief Akhilesh Yadav. However, by late evening, the RO declared that Bajaj’s nomination paper was rejected during scrutiny.
In his letter to the EC, Bajaj said, “As required, I have filed the nomination in two sets with the prescribed form of affidavit, certified copy of my voter list and Rs 10,000 on 27th October 2020 at 2.50 pm. The facts averred in the present complaint will also be clear from video footage of the process…”
Bajaj has attached two photographs which he claims “clearly showing two sets of nomination papers at the table of the Returning Officer”. He says the forms were duly received by the RO.
He alleged that the RO did not provide receipts for the nomination forms – pink and green — and the prescribed security money “despite repeated requests at the time of submission”. Bajaj alleged that this was done by the RO to “as a part of criminal conspiracy to affect the outcome of the election”.
He alleged that on the morning of October 28, the RO refused to have received the pink nomination form. “He totally refused the same by falsely stating that I have submitted only one green nomination form…” read the complaint by Bajaj.
According to him, during the scrutiny of nomination forms later in the day, the RO “alleged that one of the proposers in green form (was) inadvertently mentioned Nawab Shah instead of Nawab Jan”.
“It also came to our notice that in Part III of green form to be filled by RO, the name of candidate which RO noted as PRAKASH BAJPAI instead of the correct name as PRAKASH BAJAJ… The whole conspiracy of removing pink form and writing the wrong name of candidate by RO in green form exposed the entire criminal conspiracy,” Bajaj complained.
Bajaj said that in spite of his requests, he was not given an opportunity to rectify the name of proposer. “Our request to bring the proposer for physical verification was also not acceded by RO. In this manner our requests in terms of Representation of People Act was unlawfully not accepted by RO…” the complaint stated.
In a separate section in his complaint, Bajaj has said that it was alleged (by the RO) that the address of the candidate in green form and election card were different.
“(This) was not tenable as the address in the election card was written in short due to space constraint and detailed address was mentioned in the green form. All the residents of said locality had similar short addresses written in the election card and the said objection was frivolous…”, Bajaj said.
According to him, he filed a detailed submission with respect to objections raised by other candidates/proposer before 4 pm. “There was a discussion between RO and the observer about the timing of the passing the order. There were two different views, where one was saying to pass the order by 11 am by the next day while the other was insisting that we can pass the order by 7:30 pm on the same day,” read his complaint which alleged that the “RO declined to discuss anything with us”.
“Around 4 pm on October 28, the RO said that his order regarding the issue is ready. I had filed my reply at 4 pm. How could half his order be already prepared when I had just filed my reply? It means there was a conspiracy… He had time to announce the order November 2. But he announced at 7.30 pm the same day. They have murdered democracy by cancelling my nomination and not allowing an election,” Bajaj told The Indian Express.
Ashok Kumar, who is also special secretary for UP Vidhan Sabha, said that he would reply to Bajaj’s allegation to the EC when asked to do so. “When the EC asks me to give a reply on the matter, I will do so. I can only respond to his allegations when his complaint comes in front of me on record. In a democracy, he has the right to express himself. When the EC asks me, I will reply,” Kumar said.