While Yadav claims he submitted the “required proof”, the Returning Officer says the SP candidate failed to submit the no-objection certificate within the stipulated time.
On May 1, the Election Commission rejected the nomination of Samajwadi Party’s Varanasi candidate Tej Bahadur Yadav. The ex-Border Security Force jawan’s nomination was cancelled by the Returning Officer (RO) on the grounds that a sacked government employee could not contest elections for at least five years—unless a no-objection certificate (NOC) is submitted. The NOC must clarify that he/she was not dismissed for corruption or disloyalty.
In April 2017, Yadav was sacked after his video about the poor quality of food served in the Army went viral in January that year.
“Bahadur failed to submit the NOC within the stipulated time of 11 am on May 1. Hence, his nomination was cancelled,” says Surendra Singh, Varanasi’s District Magistrate and Returning Officer. Yadav had filed his nomination on Monday (April 29) afternoon—the last day for filing nominations. On Tuesday evening, he was asked to submit proof that he was not dismissed for corruption or disloyalty by 11 am on Wednesday—an impossible task.
The cancellation of Tej Bahadur’s nomination virtually means that Shalini Yadav, who had filed her nomination last week, will now be Samajwadi Party’s official candidate. She, along with the Congress’ Ajay Rai, will take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking re-election from the seat.
Polling in Varanasi is slated for April 19. Over 18 lakh voters will use their franchise. Over 102 candidates had filed their nominations—a record in itself—by 11.15 pm on April 29. Of the 102, 30 will now be in the race which includes mafia don and former SP MP Atiq Ahmad, and turmeric farmers of Telangana and Tamil Nadu.
On Monday night, hours after the Samajwadi Party nominated the 43-year-old ex-BSF jawan from the Varanasi constituency to take on Modi, Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah, who is dubbed as Chanakya, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and other senior BJP leaders rushed to Varanasi to convene a late-night meeting. It was to take stock of the situation with regards to Modi’s election campaign considering new developments.
Such a high-profile meeting was crucial because the Varanasi contest—which was being viewed as virtual walkover due to “weaker” opposition candidates till Sunday—had suddenly turned into an electrifying Chowkidar-versus-Jawan contest when the SP replaced its original candidate, Shalini Yadav, with the ex-BSF jawan, who had earlier filed his nomination papers as an independent candidate.
However, by Tuesday evening, India’s most-closely-watched contest took another interesting turn when the Returning Officer of Varanasi served a notice to Tej Bahadur. The Returning Officer had directed Bahadur to produce “conclusive evidence” that he was not sacked for corruption or disloyalty by 11 am the next day.
The notice was given by the RO under Section 9 of the People’s Representation Act, 1951.
This Section prohibits government servants—central and state both—from contesting elections for five years after dismissal, if they had been sacked for corruption or disloyalty. Besides, there was a discrepancy in Tej Bahadur’s two sets of nomination papers.
As per the notice, Yadav has admitted in his first nomination, which he filed as an independent candidate, that he was dismissed over the charges of corruption/disloyalty. However, in his second nomination paper as a Samajwadi Party candidate, Yadav denied that he was sacked for the above reasons. He also submitted an affidavit which stated that he had written “yes” (to disqualification over corruption charges) in the first nomination “by mistake”. His affidavit acknowledges he was sacked but not for corruption or disloyalty.
The notice further reads that in a special case, the Election Commission can grant permission to dismissed government officers to contest elections provided they submit conclusive proof that they were not sacked for corruption or disloyalty. Since such a certificate was missing from both the nominations, Yadav was directed to submit the same on May 1 by 11 am.
Yadav has alleged that his nomination has been rejected wrongly and he would “go to the Supreme Court”. He also claimed that he submitted the required proof—the NOC—yet his form was rejected.
Anurag Tiwari, a Varanasi-based journalist, says, “Bahadur claimed that he submitted the proof but didn’t share the document with media. However, as per RO’s announcement, his NOC was not submitted on time.”