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Cong hands walkover to Sushma

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  • Published 6.04.09
Rajkumar, Sushma (Saeed Farooqui)

Bhopal, April 6: The Congress today gifted Sushma Swaraj a “walkover” in the Vidisha seat as the nomination papers of the party’s candidate were rejected by the collector.

The Congress debacle, which means the BJP leader is assured of victory in the Madhya Pradesh seat unless a planned legal challenge bears fruit, came on a day nomination papers were filed in Rae Bareli by Sonia Gandhi who had defeated Sushma in a grudge battle in Bellary in 1999.

Congress nominee Rajkumar Patel, an associate of AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, failed to submit the original of Form A — a document necessary to prove that a candidate is a particular party’s official choice.

Now, there will be no “hand” symbol in Vidisha, a rural seat that in the past had been represented by Ramnath Goenka, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Vidisha goes to polls on April 23.

Rajkumar’s lapse is a telling comment on the sorry state of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh. In the past 48 hours, conspiracy theories alleging a “clandestine deal” between the Congress and the BJP have been doing the rounds. A section of the state Congress itself accused Rajkumar of being hand in glove with his rivals. But Rajkumar has denied the charge.

Rajkumar had waited till a few hours before the deadline on Saturday to file his nomination papers. MPCC leaders said Rajkumar had collected Form A and other papers on March 29, but they did not know why he waited five days and then ended up submitting a photocopy.

When the anomaly was brought to Rajkumar’s notice, he tried to get the original from Bhopal, over 50km from the collector’s office. As the paper reached well past 3pm — the deadline — the returning officer refused to accept it.

Rajkumar reached Delhi yesterday to consult senior lawyer Kapil Sibal. The Congress has approached the Election Commission and is planning to move court.

Party leaders are now trying to figure out how Rajkumar, a veteran of many an election, could make such an error. In the past, Rajkumar has built a reputation for losing to the BJP’s high and mighty such as Chauhan and Sunderlal Patwa, another chief minister.

Rajkumar is unlikely to have bucked the trend this time but handing a cakewalk to Sushma will be particularly galling for the high command.

Congress veterans wondered why state party chief Suresh Pachauri did not depute a lawyer from the party’s legal cell to scrutinise the papers.

The BJP reacted with glee. Sushma lamented that she would now be left fighting Independents and candidates belonging to inconsequential parties (around 18 are still in the fray).