The Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Gujarat’s Surat Lok Sabha constituency was elected unopposed on Monday after the Congress’ candidate was disqualified by the polling officer and other candidates withdrew their nominations.

Mukesh Dalal was declared the winner two weeks before voters in Surat were to head for polling in the second phase of the general election on May 7.

On Sunday, Sourabh Pardhi, Surat’s district election officer, rejected the nomination papers of the Congress’ candidate Nilesh Kumbhani on the grounds that all three persons who had proposed his candidature had failed to turn up before the polling authority to support his nomination form, The Hindu reported.

The persons had claimed in an affidavit to the poll officer that they had not signed his nomination form, the newspaper reported on Sunday.

The nomination of the Congress’ alternative candidate was also rejected on the same grounds.

According to election nomination rules, a candidate of a registered political party needs the backing of at least one voter at the time of filing nomination papers. An independent candidate requires the backing of at least 10 voters.

If there is only one contestant in a constituency, the electoral officer is mandated to declare that candidate to have been elected immediately after the last hour for withdrawal of candidature. The polling in the constituency is no longer required.

On Monday, Pardhi handed over the election certificate to Dalal, ANI reported. Monday was the last day of withdrawal of nominations for the second phase of polling.

The Congress questioned the Surat electoral officer’s decision to reject the nomination of the party’s candidate as well as its alternate candidate, Suresh Padsala.

Party leader Jairam Ramesh said that the BJP was scared of losing the elections “due to problems and anger of MSME [Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises] owners and businessmen”. He also accused the Hindutva party of trying to “match-fix” the electoral contest in Surat.

Shaktisinh Gohil, the chief of Congress’ Gujarat unit, said on Sunday that the Election Commission should step in to ensure that India’s image of holding free and fair polls is preserved, The Times of India reported. Gohil added that the party will challenge the Surat poll officer’s order in the High Court and the Supreme Court if needed.

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