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Official sticks to stand on rejection of nominations

By J.P. Shukla

LUCKNOW, JUNE 25. The Returning Officer for the Rajya Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, Rajendra Prasad Pandey, today stuck to his ruling and rejected the nomination papers of the two Congress candidates, Harendra Agrawal and M.M. Shukla. Mr. Pandey had rejected the papers on the ground that the candidates' personal details had not been furnished in the format as required. The two went to the Election Commission, which stayed the declaration of results and asked Mr. Pandey to review the case.

After hearing arguments for and against for the past two days, Mr. Pandey today said he had deliberated the case at length in accordance with the Commission's directives and saw no reason to review his ruling.

The decision invited protests from the two candidates and the party's State unit president, Jagdambika Pal, who said they would move the Commission again demanding countermanding of the Rajya Sabha elections in the State. They demanded that Mr. Pandey issue them a certified copy of the decision so that could approach the Chief Election Commissioner immediately before the results could be announced tomorrow, the last date for withdrawal of nominations.

After Mr. Pandey left, the Congress leaders turned to the Chief Election Officer, Vijay Sharma, present during the hearing as the Election Commission's Observer. They alleged that Mr. Pandey had hatched a conspiracy to deprive the Congress candidates of their democratic right to contest so that all other candidates, including the BJP-supported Lalit Suri, were elected unopposed. They requested Mr. Sharma to see that they got a certified copy of Mr. Pandey's decision soon to enable them to take the next step.

The leaders of the Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party have welcomed the decision, saying the rule of law had been vindicated.

The Revenue Minister, Ambika Chaudhary, said that discrepancies in the papers of the two Congress candidates were of their own making and that they had tried to blame others for their faults. Had they acted with caution there would have been no reason to blame others for their mistakes.

Earlier, Mr. Agrawal and Mr. Jagdambika Pal claimed that the required affidavit on Form 26 had been submitted by Mr. Agrawal and that it had been lost in the office of the Returning Officer. When Mr. Pandey refuted this, Mr. Agrawal started accusing Mr. Pandey of being prejudiced. Mr. Pandey requested him to sit down but Mr. Agrawal said, "what can you do if I do not sit down?" Mr. Pandey then asked the security guards to remove him but Mr. Pal intervened to save the situation.

Today's ruling has thrown the Congress out of the race with the possibility of all the 11 candidates in the field being elected unopposed.

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