Republican Party of India (A) criticised NCP chief Sharad Pawar for asking his party workers to vote twice and asked the Election Commission to check his statement and take appropriate action.
“We will not tolerate bogus voting. We will strongly oppose them (NCP). The Election Commission of India (ECI) should check his statement and take action accordingly,” said RPI (A) chief Ramdas Athawale.
RPI(A) is an ally in the ‘Mahayuti’ in Maharashtra. He however, said that the Maratha strongman usually does not make such “illegal statements.”
Athawale’s party colleague and ex-IPS officer PK Jain said, “The statement made by Pawar was a serious one. Action could be taken against him.”
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar kicked up a storm today with his comments on bogus voting at a function in Navi Mumbai.
Mr Pawar asked workers of his party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), to take advantage of the multi-phase polling in Maharashtra by voting twice – first at their hometowns and then at places of work.
While addressing a gathering of “mathadi” workers (head loaders) who hail from Satara district in Western Maharashtra, the NCP chief said, “Last time (in 2009), the 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 on April 24.”
Mr. Pawar went on to warn them to take necessary precautions. He added, “Do erase the ink mark which will be put when you vote first”.
Later in the day, Mr. Pawar clarified by saying, “My quote has been pulled out of context. This meeting was not a political meeting or a rally. This gathering was to commemorate the death anniversary of Annasaheb Patil, their late leader. The head-loaders are a community from Western Maharashtra, who live in Mumbai. It was a comment in jest. My remark was with an intention to encourage people to vote. I request people to take the right message from my quote and abide by their duty of vote.”
The Opposition was quick to attack Mr. Pawar for his controversial comments. BJP Spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said, “It shows how they have won seats in the past. It’s a violation of code of conduct. We shall complain to the Election Commission but we are waiting for the waiting for the Election Commission to take cognizance of it. Not only is this a violation but it is also a crime to motivate or ask someone to vote in two constituencies.”
Mr Pawar, who is a veteran politician, will find it difficult to explain his comments. Sections 171D and 171F of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deal with offences related to personation at elections, terms this as a cognizable offence and lays down a punishment of one year’s imprisonment or fine or both. The law says, “who having voted once at such election applies at the same election for a voting paper in his own name, and whoever abets, procures or attempts to procure the voting by any person in any such way, commits the offence of personation at an election.”
Voting for the General Elections in Maharashtra will be held in three phases on April 14, April 17 and April 24. Satara district will vote in the second phase while Mumbai and surrounding areas will vote in the third phase on April 24.