New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the Election Commission of India’s order revoking senior Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Kamal Nath’s star campaigner status in the upcoming by-polls in the state.

The Election Commission counsel told a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde that Nath’s petition had become infructuous as the campaigning had ended and the voting is tomorrow. “We are staying it,” said the bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

The EC said it had taken action against the veteran Congress leader over his remark calling Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan “mafia” and “milawat khor” on October 13. The Commission had earlier warned him on October 26 for calling BJP candidate Imarti Devi an “item” while campaigning for a Congress candidate.

The election regulatory body was represented by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi said Nath’s petition against the October 30 order was already infructuous as the campaigning for bypolls to 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh was already over and polling is on November 2.

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“We are staying your order as you have no power to pass this order,” the bench said. The court directed EC to file its response to Nath’s petition that had argued that the selection of star campaigner under Section 77(1) of RP Act was the sole prerogative of the political party.

The by-elections in Madhya Pradesh were necessitated after 22 sitting MLAs of the erstwhile Congress government switched over to the BJP in March 2020, leading to the fall of Kamal Nath’s 15-month-old government. Subsequently, three other Congress MLAs followed the lead of Jyotiraditya Scindia and his supporters and joined the BJP. Another three seats in the Assembly are vacant due to the deaths of incumbent MLAs.

The BJP has 107 MLAs and the Congress has 88 MLAs. In order to return to power in the state, the Congress has to win all 28 seats, while the ruling BJP only needs nine seats to reach the majority mark of 116 in the 230-member House.