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Pranab survives Sangma googly; BJP waves 'fabricated' letter

Tuesday July 03, 2012 10:17:24 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: UPA presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday managed to survive his opponent Purno A. Sangma's bid to get him out of the race on the ground that he was holding an office of profit, with the returning officer rejecting the contention.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fired a fresh salvo at Mukherjee, claiming his letter quitting the Kolkata-based Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) was "fabricated", and warning it would pursue the matter.

Former Lok Sabha speaker Sangma, backed by the BJP and other opposition parties, had Monday formally objected to Mukherjee contesting the presidential poll even as he continued as ISI's chairman, which is an office of profit.

Rajya Sabha Secretary General V.K. Agnihotri, who is the returning officer, rejected the objections.

"After making summary inquiries, as required under the relevant provisions of the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election Act regarding conduct of scrutiny of nomination papers and after hearing both the parties in both the cases today (Tuesday), I, in my capacity as returning officer, overruled the objections raised in both the cases, as they were untenable and lacked merit," Agnihotri told reporters.

Agnihotri, though, refused to give the reasons for his decision.

But his decision was not acceptable to the BJP. It also claimed that the returning officer's decision was illegal.

The BJP also released both Mukherjee's reply to their objections submitted to the returning officer and his resignation letter sent to ISI president to buttress the point that the signatures in the two documents were visibly not identical.

BJP leader Ananth Kumar said: "(ISI president) M.G.K. Menon has to clarify to the country whether it is his (Mukherjee's) signature on the (resignation) letter. If it is not, what is the mystery about it? The onus is on Menon."

"The resignation (as ISI chairman) filed by Mukherjee is fabricated; and it is unfortunate that people contesting for such high office are indulging in such kind of activities," he added.

Sangma's lawyer and BJP leader Satpal Jain, who had argued the petition against Mukherjee before the returning officer, said: "It is ironical that our objection to his candidature was rejected and his nomination was accepted. This (decision) is illegal."

Jain noted that Mukherjee, having been elected as ISI chairman by the institution's council, has effectively quit office only after the council accepts his resignation letter.

"Our battle has just begun," Jain said, when asked for a future course of action.

Mukherjee, who was away in Lucknow campaigning, was not available to react to Sangma and his team's allegations against him.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who along with Home Minister P. Chidambaram argued Mukerjee's case before the returning officer, said: "The objections raised by Sangma were taken up by the returning officer and we filed our reply attached with the resignation by Mukherjee and its acceptance by the ISI. These were considered and the objections turned down," he said.

He said the UPA candidate had prepared himself to contest the presidential poll after his name was cleared and hence the resignation was given on June 20 to the ISI president.

"The resignation was accepted the same day by the president. The council, which meets only in four months, can ratify the resignation at its next meeting. The institution's consititution does not talk about the means of resignation. Hence, the ISI president can accept the resignation," he argued.

The controversy, however, resulted in the extension of last day of scrutiny by a day to Tuesday, which is permitted under the law.

Agnihotri also noted that he had also rejected objections raised by an individual against Sangma's candidature claiming anomalies in the signatures of proposers and seconders in the nomination papers.




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