NEW DELHI: India’s Election Commission has cancelled the nomination of an ex-soldier who was running against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Varanasi constituency of Uttar Pradesh state.
It said that government employees who were dismissed from service cannot contest polls for five years. The former Border Security Force soldier, Tej Bahadur Yadav, shot to fame in 2017 after posting three videos, complaining that troops on the border with Pakistan were often served poor-quality food. The videos went viral, prompting an official inquiry.
Mr Yadav was sacked four months later for “making false allegations”.
Mr Yadav was contesting against Mr Modi as a joint candidate of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The regional parties have formed an alliance to contest against Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and the main opposition Congress party.
The ex-soldier, who has never contested an election before, was certainly a surprising choice – especially since he was going up against Mr Modi, who won the seat by a huge margin of more than 300,000 votes in 2014.
But he was also bound to grab attention as a candidate because his videos had sparked both sympathy and outrage on his behalf. He had posted videos of burnt food and said the quality of the food was so poor that soldiers often chose not to eat at all.
And his candidacy was also a political statement of sorts – Mr Modi has repeatedly evoked the sacrifices of soldiers during his campaign. National security became an election plank after Indian troops were killed in a suicide attack in Kashmir. India said a Pakistan-based militant group was responsible.