In potentially controversial remarks, Union minister and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday asked his party workers to take advantage of the multi-phase polling in the state by voting twice, first at their hometowns and then at their places of work.
"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," Pawar said while addressing a gathering of workers who hail from that district in Western Maharashtra.
"Vote for the clock (NCP symbol) there (in Satara) and come back to vote for the clock here as well," he said to loud laughs at the gathering held in Navi Mumbai.
Pawar, a student union activist-turned-national leader, warned voters to take the necessary precautions.
"Do erase the ink mark which will be put when you vote first," he said.
The NCP chief's remarks came a day after his party Member of Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde disclosed that in the 2009 polls, he had, at the behest of his now estranged uncle and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Gopinath Munde, facilitated bogus voting in Beed district.
"However, this time I will ensure that there is no bogus voting (in favour of my uncle)," Dhananjay had said.
Pawar, however, later told reporters in Mumbai that his statement was made in "a lighter vein and had a tinge of satire to it".
"Party workers get bored by same cliched electoral speeches. The statement which I made earlier in the day was in a lighter vein," the NCP chief said in suburban Bhandup where he was campaigning for party candidate Sanjay Dina Patil, who is contesting from the Mumbai North East seat.
"My statement should not be misinterpreted. Bogus voting does not take place in our state," he said.
Pawar, the student union activist-turned-national leader, however, asked party leaders to be circumspect before delivering any speech.
"All leaders should be careful while delivering their speech. They should see there is no slip of tongue," he said.
Later in the evening, Pawar hurriedly called a press conference to say that the controversy should now be put to rest.
"Firstly, I was not addressing any public or election meeting. It was a meeting on the occasion of the 32nd death anniversary of the late Annasaheb Patil, where workers had assembled to pay homage to the departed leader," he said.
"Secondly, my statement was simply a joke and not at all suggested commission of any act violative of the election laws or rules," Pawar said.
"After learning that my statement was being misinterpreted and blown out of proportion by our political opponents, I immediately clarified," he added.
Image: NCP chief Sharad Pawar