NCP chief Sharad Pawar found himself in a controversy on Sunday following his advice to party workers to vote twice in the coming elections after wiping off the indelible ink on their finger. As opposition parties protested and the Election Commission took note, Pawar scrambled to consult legal experts and appeared before the media to clarify that he had made the remarks in jest.
Addressing a meeting of “mathadi (head loaders)” workers in Navi Mumbai on Sunday, Pawar said they should vote once at their native place Satara and second time in their work place Mumbai.
A senior officer in the State Election Commission office said, “The Election Commission in Delhi has taken suo motu notice of the developments.” The poll panel has sought video footage of the public meeting from the Thane collector.
The BJP candidate from Mumbai North East, Kirit Somaiya, lodged a complaint with the EC. Somaiya said, “On Monday, I will also file a police complaint against Pawar.”
Maharashtra BJP president Devendra Fadnavis said, “The statement amounts to direct endorsement of bogus voting.”
Sensing the serious ramifications, Pawar cancelled all his meetings and drove to the party headquarters at Nariman Point. Legal and constitutional experts were consulted to draft his clarification, which was issued late evening to the media.
Pawar also personally appeared before the media to say that he had been misunderstood. In a written statement which he read out in English and Marathi, he said, “I did not suggest anything to anybody which would amount to violation of any electoral rules or laws. I wish to place on record that I attended a Mathadi workers’ meeting today that marks the death anniversary of Mathadi leader late Annasaheb Patil. In the said meeting which was not a public or election meeting… I am stated to have said as a joke… that the mark of voting ink can be erased.”
He added, “I did not mean to suggest to anybody to violate any electoral rule or law. When I was informed that my statement was being misinterpreted and blown out of proportion, I made a clarification in my next election meeting at Bhandup to that effect at 4 pm, which was also covered by the media.”
NCP spokesperson Nawab Mulik said, “Pawarsaheb is a stickler for rules and regulations. How can be promote double voting?”