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Pune Bypoll Campaign Steeped In Communal Blizzard, Pawar Defends Controversial Statement

Electioneering for the Kasba and Pimpri-Chinchwad assembly byelections has been caught in a communal blizzard in its last moments as NCP president Sharad Pawar has defended a controversial appeal to the voters by former Congress Pune corporator Usman Hiroli. Addressing an NCP meeting, Hiroli had said, “Bring all those back from Dubai or Saudi on February 26. Even those should be made to vote who are no more.” When quizzed by the media, Pawar said there was nothing wrong to call back those who may have gone to Dubai or Kathmandu. It would have been proper to object had Hiroli asked non-voters to vote, Pawar observed. In the speech, Hiroli is heard saying, “We can win this war, defeat Modi and the RSS, only when we vote, not just 99% but 100%.” Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has condemned the appeal, saying that this bypoll is a battle between the supporters and opponents of the removal of Article 370 to liberate Kashmir. It is an attempt to polarise society on religious lines, he alleged. In a bid to clarify his statement, Hiroli said that about 1500 young boys and girls from Kasba constituency are in Saudi, Dubai and Kuwait. “All I meant was that they should be called for voting as they frequently come here,” he explained.