[splco_heading size=”15″ align=”left” margin=”30″]In a major blow to the 3 decades ruling BJP in Gujarat, the Gujarat Justice Paresh Upadhyay High Court on Tuesday has declared the BJP minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama’s election in 2017 as void on the grounds of malpractice and manipulation. [/splco_heading]
In a petition filed by the Congress leader Ashwin Rathod, challenging the Chudasama’s victory from Dholka constituency due to rampant malpractices .
In Dholka constituency. He had bagged the victory by a margin of 327 votes in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections.
Ashwin Rathod in his petition alleged that the BJP leader was indulged in ‘corrupt practice and breach of many of the mandatory instructions of the Election Commission at various stages, particularly at the time of counting of votes.
Currently, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama is handling education, law and justice, legislative and parliamentary affairs portfolios in the Vijay Rupani led BJP government.
Congress candidate Rathod’s petition had said that Chudasama had indulged in “corrupt practice and breach of many of the mandatory instructions of the Election Commission, at various stages of the election process, more particularly at the time of counting of votes”.
The petition argued that the returning officer (RO), Dholka’s deputy collector Dhaval Jani, had “manipulated the process of counting of ballot papers”. Jani had not followed the process of counting and cancelled 429 postal ballot votes, the Congress leader’s petition said. Rathod also said 29 votes cast through electronic voting machines (EVMs) were not counted by the officers.
There was a difference of 29 votes between “1,59,946 votes in the voters turnover report of the returning officer and 1,59,917 votes in the final declaration of result made by the returning officer” the petition claimed.
According to Ahmedabad Mirror, the court found “glaring breaches” of election rules. From CCTV footage, Jani was seen talking over the phone inside the counting centre, while Chudasama’s assistant personal secretary Dharmin Mehta was also seen inside the counting centre, illegally. The footage also showed Jani telling the staff at the counting centre that he is going to “declare ‘off the record result’”.
During the high court hearings, Chudasama had filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging an order passed by Justice Upadhyay to continue hearing the case.
The judge had set aside some objections raised by Chudasama’s lawyers. Chudasama termed the high court ‘partisan’ in an affidavit filed in the top court, which did not pass any orders in his favour.
The high court judge was ‘fumed’ at the allegations levelled by the BJP leader, according to Ahmedabad Mirror. Chudasama appeared in court to give testimony and also tendered an apology for levelling allegations against the high court and Justice Upadhyay.
Also the results in 20 other assembly seats, where the victory margin was also thin, have been challenged in the high court. These petitions are pending for hearing, the Gujarat local newspapers reported.
The Gujarat high court’s order comes as a blow to the Rupani government, which is already facing flak for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.