NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday courted controversy when he asked mathadis (head-loaders mainly from Satara district) to vote twice – at their native place and in Navi Mumbai (where they reside) – in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. He later clarified that he made the comment in jest.
"During the last elections, the dates for voting in your villages and here were the same; that is why there was a problem. However, that is not the case this time. Voting will take place on April 17 in your native place and on April 24 here (Navi Mumbai). So I appeal to you to go to your villages with your families, cast your vote for the clock (NCP's symbol) there and then come back to Navi Mumbai to exercise franchise on April 24. While doing all this, don't forget to erase the ink marked on your figure, else there will be a big problem," he said. Pawar was speaking at Navi Mumbai's APMC market on the death anniversary of mathadi leader Annasaheb Patil.
Pawar later retracted his statement, saying it was made in a lighter vein. "Party workers get bored by the same cliched electoral speeches. The statement which I made earlier in the day was in a lighter vein," the NCP chief said. "My statement should not be misinterpreted. Bogus voting does not take place in our state."
The Aam Aadmi Party, however, said it would write to the Election Commission recommending strict action against the agriculture minister. "Such brazen calls to indulge in corrupting our democratic processes must not go unpunished," a statement issued by the Maharashtra unit of AAP said. Some Congress and BJP leaders too have threatened to file a police complaint against Pawar.
Mathadis form a sizeable population of Navi Mumbai. They have been working at the APMC for years.