Congress Pick 'Missing', 8 Others Withdraw: What's Behind BJP's Surat Win

Amid reports claiming that Nilesh Kumbhani may join the BJP, Congress workers are staging a demonstration outside his locked house

Congress Pick 'Missing', 8 Others Withdraw: What's Behind BJP's Surat Win

Congress candidate Nilesh Kumbhani missing from his Surat home

Surat Congress leader Nilesh Kumbhani, whose nomination as Lok Sabha candidate was rejected over alleged discrepancies, is missing and can't be reached over the phone, local media reported today. This comes a day after the BJP's Mukesh Dalal was declared winner from the BJP stronghold after all rival candidates withdrew from the contest.

Amid reports claiming that Mr Kumbhani may join the BJP, Congress workers protested outside his locked house with posters that read, "janata ka gaddar (people's traitor)".

The dramatic events follow the BJP's first Lok Sabha win in Surat, unopposed. Gujarat BJP chief CR Paatil yesterday said Surat has presented "the first lotus" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "I congratulate our candidate for Surat Lok Sabha seat Mukesh Dalal for getting elected unopposed," he said in a post on X.

The Congress has approached the Election Commission, alleging that the ruling BJP in Gujarat exerted "wrong and undue influence", and demanded a restart of the poll process.

"We have therefore requested the Election Commission to postpone the election in Surat and redo the election shorty to send a clear message that you cannot take advantage of this kind of wrong undue influence," party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters after meeting the Election Commissioners yesterday.

Mr Singhvi claimed that in Surat, Congress candidate Kumbhani was nominated by four proposers, "but, suddenly all four stood up and denied their signatures".

"This is no coincidence. The candidate is missing for many hours and by the time he resurfaces we find that every other candidate has withdrawn his candidature, every one of them. His candidature is rejected by the returning officer," he said.

What Happened In Surat: A Timeline

April 18: Congress candidate files Nilesh Kumbhani nomination for Surat Lok Sabha seat

April 19: BJP worker Dinesh Jodhani objects to Mr Kumbhani's nomination and alleges that signatures of his proposers are fake.

April 20: Polling officials say they received affidavits from the proposers claiming that signatures on Mr Kumbhani nomination are not theirs. The district election officer seeks Mr Kumbhani's reply within a day.

April 21: The Congress candidate's nomination is cancelled by District Election Officer (DEO) after he and his proposers do not turn up to support his nomination form. The proposers, including two close relatives of the Congress pick, could not be reached over the phone.

April 22: On the last day of withdrawing nomination, eight candidates, including the BSP pick and Independents, withdraw their nominations. BJP's Mukesh Dalal is declared winner.