Union minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar's suggestion on Sunday to Mathadi workers (head-loaders) to vote twice this Lok Sabha elections may land him in trouble. Opposition parties have accused him of encouraging bogus voting and said they would report his statement to the Election Commission (EC) of India as well as the police.
Pawar later said he had made the remark in jest and would offer his explanation to the EC on Monday. "I have not advised or suggested that they vote twice. I told them that everyone must vote. My statement has been misinterpreted and blown out of proportion," he said.
The NCP chief made the controversial statement while addressing a gathering at the APMC market in Navi Mumbai. Referring to the multi-phase polling in Maharashtra, Pawar told Mathadi workers: "Last time [in 2009], polling in Satara and Mumbai was on the same day and people went to their hometowns. But this time polling in Satara is on April 17 and here [Mumbai / Navi Mumbai] on April 24," Pawar said. "Vote for the clock [NCP's symbol] there and come back to vote for the clock here as well," he said to loud laughs.
Most of these workers hail from Satara district, from where an NCP candidate will be contesting.
Pawar told the crowd to take necessary precautions before voting again. "Do erase the ink mark which will be put when you vote the first time."
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde said Pawar should be taken to task by election authorities. Kirit Somaiya, BJP candidate from Mumbai North East, sent a letter to the EC on Sunday and said he would file a criminal complaint against Pawar on Monday.
The Republican Party of India (A) also criticised Pawar and demanded that the EC take action. The Aam Admi Party said it would write to the EC. In a statement, Preeti Menon-Sharma, AAP's state unit secretary, said: "Such brazen calls to indulge in corrupting our democratic processes must not go unpunished."
(With inputs from PTI)