He threatened to cut water supply if we did not vote for his cousin Supriya, residents said

Residents of this drought-affected village say they have used their ballot to teach the Nationalist Congress Party a lesson after Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar allegedly threatened to cut off water supply if they did not vote for his cousin and sitting MP Supriya Sule.

The Hindu met Manik Kale, who said he was present at the meeting on April 16 on the eve of polling here when Mr. Pawar reportedly made the threat. “He came here around 7 p.m. and said we should vote for Supriya Sule. When some of us raised the issue of water, he threatened to cut our water supply if we did not vote for the NCP.”

Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Gadre has directed the Collector of Pune, Saurabh Rao, to ascertain whether the voice heard in the video recording of the alleged incident — that later surfaced in the media — is Mr. Pawar’s. The video was brought to the notice of the media by the Aam Aadmi Party candidate from Baramati constituency, Suresh Khopade.

The CEO’s instructions came after a local BJP leader — Dilip Khaire — filed a written complaint against Mr. Pawar with the returning officer.

Meanwhile, back here, family members of Karan Mane, who shot the video with his mobile phone, said he was threatened by NCP workers. “Party workers have taken his phone away stating that Ajit Pawar wanted to see it in Baramati. He has college exams next week, but he’s scared of going out of the village,” said his uncle Mohan.

Baramati has long been the pocket borough of NCP chief Sharad Pawar. His daughter, Ms. Sule, is contesting her second election from here.

While the faces in the video are not clear, several voices, including that of a man alleged to be Ajit Pawar, can be heard. “If you indulge in any trouble, if you show any kind of masti [arrogance], then I will cut water [supply] to this village,” the man says. He adds, “Supriya will not win or lose depending on one village, she is getting votes from everywhere else. But I will know from the EVMs if you have not voted for her. What have I got to lose?”

In the video, a youth is hushed up for asking why irrigation work was delayed in the region. “You came here in 2006 and said it will be done in two months. Can you tell us now when it will be done?” In response, the man, alleged to be Ajit Pawar, says, “Pick him up right now.”

The Hindu met the youth who asked the question, but he was too scared to speak.

In the village, women can be seen carrying water pots on their heads in the scorching sun. Asked if she had heard about the controversy, 70-year-old Krishnabai Masal said: “I have been waiting for water for the last five hours. We are fed up with the politicians.”

When asked why the police had not registered a complaint so far, inspector A.M. Jadhav of the Vadgaon Nimbalkar station said the video had been sent for investigation. “We have initiated an inquiry. We will have to see if the statement violated the election code of conduct,” he stated.

While Mr. Pawar and Ms. Sule were unavailable for comment, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that the video was doctored, calling it a stunt by the AAP. “This video is doctored and these are false and baseless allegations. This is a publicity stunt by AAP,” he told The Hindu .