Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, president of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), is under scrutiny for possible violations of the election code of conduct, after a speech he gave to mathadi workers, or head loaders, in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.

The Union Agriculture Minister’s remark led his political rivals to complain to EC. Pic/PTI

In the speech at APMC market in Vashi, Pawar had asked the head loaders, who are mostly from Satara district, to vote twice for NCP — once in their hometowns and once in their work district in Mumbai. Satara and Mumbai go to polls on different dates in the multi-phase poll schedule this year.

‘Wipe that ink and vote for us, twice’: Sharad Pawar addressing mathadi workers in Navi Mumbai on Sunday. Pic/PTI

The state wing of the Election Commission (EC) started scrutinising the audio-visual (AV) of Pawar’s speech yesterday, after procuring it in the morning. Sources said a report would be forwarded to EC’s Delhi headquarters soon.

In the AV, Pawar is heard asking the workers to erase the voting ink mark and cast their vote again for NCP a second time.

“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, addressing a gathering of the head loaders.

He then said, “Vote for the clock (the NCP symbol) in Satara, and come back to vote for the clock here as well.” His remark evoked laughter. He later clarified that he had made the statement in jest because “party workers get bored with the same cliched electoral speeches”, and that it was a satirical remark.

However, officers say it is difficult to remove the indelible ink mark, as it is lab-tested and lasts at least for 15 days. In 2009, polling in Satara and Mumbai was on the same day, and people went to their hometowns.

This time, polling in Satara is on April 17, and on April 24 in Mumbai. “Though Pawar clarified that the remarks were in a lighter vein, it can’t go unnoticed,” say sources.

The EC will verify the mood, tone and the tenor of the speech. It may also ask for electoral rolls of Satara, Mumbai and Thane to check duplication of names. “But, it’s not possible now; it will take considerable time and additional manpower,” officials said.