In a severe jolt to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Maharashtra government's caste validity committee on Monday rejected the caste certificate submitted along with the election affidavit by BJP's Solapur MP Jaisiddheshwar Shivacharya Swami, raising a question mark over his continuing as a Lok Sabha member. The 3-member committee, presided over by Gyandev Sul and comprising Chhaya Gadekar and Santosh Jadhav as members, in its order of February 20, dismissed the claims of Swami and struck down his caste certificate issued in January 1982 as "invalid".
Ruling that the Swami had submitted a "fake certificate" in his election affidavit, the committee has directed the Akkalkot (Solapur) district authorities to initiate appropriate legal proceedings against him in the matter. Last June, following a complaint lodged by the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) leader Pramod R. Gaikwad and two others, Vinayak B. Kandkure and Milind M. Mule, questioning Swami's election affidavit, the committee had slapped a show cause notice on the Swami.
Gaikwad had questioned the claims of the Swami and his caste certificate showing that he belongs to the 'Beda Jangam' community which comes under the Scheduled Caste category, while his nephew Yogeshwar Siddhamayala belongs to the 'Hindu Beda Jangam' community which falls under the OBC category.
In his complaint, Gaikwad alleged that the Swami had submitted a fraudulent caste certificate in his election affidavit for the Solapur seat which is reserved for the SC community. "How can two persons hailing from the same family belong to and have different caste certificates... the Election Commission of India should disqualify him," Gaikwad had demanded.
VBA President Ambedkar had said that if the caste certificate case is proved correct, then his party would knock the doors of the EC, demanding Swami should be disqualified and fresh elections must be conducted for Solapur Lok Sabha seat. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Swami had defeated Congress strongman and former CM and Union Home Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ambedkar with a considerable margin.
While Swami secured around 5.25 lakh votes, Shinde was the runner-up in his stronghold with 3.66 lakh votes followed by Ambedkar with 1.70 lakh votes and 6,000-plus voting for NOTA. Incidentally, prior to the election, the VBA, Congress and other parties had raised questions over the validity of the BJP candidate's caste certificate, but the election authorities had rejected their contentions.
Meanwhile, as uncertainties plagued Swami's continuing as a Lok Sabha MP following the drawback, hectic politicking erupted within the BJP and the ruling Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress to contest the by-poll for Solapur as and when it is announced by the EC.