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AAP member digs up five-month-old Ajit Pawar controversy

Controversies around Ajit Pawar’s campaign continue to grow as Aam Aadmi Party member Suresh Khopade brings up allegations he had made during LS elections, when Pawar had reportedly threatened villagers in Baramati to vote for Supriya Sule

With former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s campaign for the state assembly election already mired in controversies, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member, Suresh Khopade is now adding yet more heat on the senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader with his allegation that Pawar had violated the model code of conduct and had threatened Masalwadi villagers on the eve of Lok Sabha polls.

AAP member Suresh Khopade
AAP member Suresh Khopade returns to an issue from five months ago, when he had alleged that Ajit Pawar had threatened villagers in Masalwadi

mid-day had reported Khopade allegations earlier this year (AAP candidate accuses Ajit Pawar of threatening voters, April 18), when Khopade was contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Baramati, the home turf of Supriya Sule, MP and cousin to Ajit Pawar.

mid-day’s report on April 18
mid-day’s report on April 18

Khopade, who managed to secure 30,000 votes, said, “In the Masalwadi case, one day prior to LS polls, on April 16, Pawar had directly threatened Masalwadi villagers that he would put them behind bars and cut their water supply if they would not vote for Supriya Sule. The next day itself I registered my complaint in the nearby Wadgaon police station. But despite having concrete evidence - an audio clip of Pawar’s exchange with villagers, both the police and district collector had given him a clean chit in the case.”

He added, “Last month, on August 14, I had filed private case in Baramati court against Pawar under sections 171 C and F (undue influence at elections) of IPC, and if the charges are proved, he would be punished with up to one year of imprisonment or a fine, or both.

As influencing or threatening voters, that too by flouting the model code of conduct, is a serious offence, under
section 8 of People’s Representation Act, Pawar would also lose his post and be banned from contesting elections in the future.”

But Khopade has no explanation why he has chosen this particular point in time to follow up on the case and approach the media about it again, one and half months after he first filed the case. The timing is certainly interesting, considering Pawar will contest the state assembly elections from Baramati within the fortnight.

Ostensibly, Khopade, who hails from Morgaon village, just five kilometres away from Masalwadi, is fighting for the rights of the Masalwadi villagers, to ensure that they are provided enough water and are no longer oppressed. The villagers, on the other hand, have said that Khopade and his party have not returned to Masalwadi or given them any support since the LS elections, begging the question, what is the allegation really about.

Jalinder Bhosale, one of the villagers, said, “After LS polls we have not seen Khopade or any other politician standing by our side to resolve the water issue. All he is doing now is for a political stunt. The villagers of all 22 villages need long-term solutions to end the drought in this particular belt in Baramati tehsil.”

Not that the villagers sound enthusiastic about Pawar either. mid-day recently reported that villagers were frustrated by the long-standing water scarcity in Masalwadi, but were too scared to raise objections to it, as they feared further repercussions from a vengeful NCP.

Another villager said on the condition of anonymity, “LS election is over and soon state polls will also take place. The issue of water scarcity is still the same. We can no longer depend on agriculture for our livelihood. Our entire village will soon have to depend on tankers for water. Politicians just don’t care about us.”

In fact, if anything, the villagers are now looking for ways to help themselves, as mid-day has revealed in another report, about the visually-impaired Chandrakant Kadam, a resident of Bhoitewadi village in Baramati who is going to contest the approaching elections in an attempt to uproot the Pawar family’ “monarchy” in the tehsil.

Pawar-ful threat

During an election speech in Masalwadi village, on April 16, Ajit Pawar allegedly threatened to cut off the water supply to the village.

“If anybody from this village indulges in any trouble, I will cut off the water supply,” he was captured saying in a video that later made the rounds on social media.

Pawar was in the village supporting his cousin, MP Supriya Sule’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.

According to the model code of conduct, campaigning must end 48 hours before votes are cast. As the speech was made just a day before polling day (April 17), Suresh Khopade had complained to the Election Commission.

Later, Pawar was given a clean chit, although the police admitted that they had not considered the video in the case evidence.

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