Sharad Pawar's call to vote twice is fraud, not humour

Watch this video.

Nothing can be as unambiguous as this, especially coming from Sharad Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party chief, known for weighing every word.

Addressing a rally in Navi Mumbai, he asked the mathadi workers – head load carriers – who work in the APMC market in Navi Mumbai to go home to vote on April 17, and return to vote again in Mumbai on April 24. Before that, wipe off the indelible ink marked on their fingers, he advised.

 Sharad Pawars call to vote twice is fraud, not humour

NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Reuters

With this inexcusable bloomer, the leader is now a much diminished man in public life.

Nowhere does the video indicate that he was saying this in half-jest. Pawar says it was in humour. As per the election laws, it was bad in taste, apart from being unlawful.

Even if he made his comment in a lighter vein, it is likely to be taken as a serious message from the leader. In fact, Sharad Pawar’s word carries weight and the reputation is that a whisper from him is all it will take for voters in Pune to take the hint and vote against the party’s own candidates.

That is why he was a much sought after speaker by his intra-party detractors like VN Gadgil. Abdul Rahman Antulay bent backwards when poll time arrived after bad-mouthing him for five years in between.

Is it that he has lost his touch to have publicly called for double voting?

What he said in Navi Mumbai amounts to a clear call to indulge in electoral fraud. Voting twice amounts to precisely that. It is a call to bogus voting.

Mathadis are head-load carrying labourers and they are mainly from the Satara-Karad belt in western Maharashtra employed in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. They are organised labour and have social welfare legislation in their favour. They are substantial in numbers and should the polling in that belt and in Mumbai coincide, candidates from Satara-Karad make a beeline to seek their votes, and often even make clandestine arrangements to transport them back home.

The other revealing thing is that the leader is aware that people are registered voters in two places which is again contrary to election rules. When he compared this year’s election schedule with that of 2009, it appeared that he knew it could not be done that year.

So, is this a normal election management practice by Sharad Pawar or his party? He is known to win elections because he has a popular support base – easily the tallest among the pygmies other parties have thrown up so far – apart from Gopinath Munde and in sheer popularity, Bal Thackeray.

Is this then the secret of election victories?

Anything he says in his defence or to wriggle out would not wash. The Indian Express reported that Pawar “later dismissed it as ‘humour’ which was not at all intended at encouraging ‘double voting’”.

Then why did he say whatever he did?

Pawar is a man who weighs his words even as he delivers a cutting sarcastic comment is softly spoken words. To do anything contrary is uncultured conduct even in the hurly burly of competitive politics.

When his nephew, Ajit Pawar had spoken at a rally of whether he was expected to fill irrigation dams by urinating in them, the uncle had issued a swift reprimand. The nephew went and sat at YB Chavan’s memorial in Karad to cleanse himself.

Sharad Pawar, now that the Election Commission has taken suo motu notice and has sought the videos of the meeting from the district’s – in this case, Thane – Collector’s report, and the opposition parties have pounced on him, has a lot to explain.

He needn’t bother. Just read his lips in the video the news televisions played.

And yes, the Election Commission too has a lot to explain. How is it that voters are registered in two places? How is it that voters dutifully register themselves but find the names missing?

Pawar would have to explain himself. The Election Commission should do so too, for the sanctity of the voters’ list is quite eroded.

Updated Date: Mar 24, 2014 08:53:12 IST