Chopper used by village poll contestant
In a first of its kind in the state and probably the country, a Shiv Sena candidate in a village poll in Maharashtra Monday deployed a helicopter to woo panchayat members to ensure his election as the village council head.
The ostentatious move was condemned by various parties, including the Congress and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), while sources in the state election commission said that the commission would "closely scrutinise" the expenses statement of the candidate.
With a view to ensure support of a majority of Mundegaon village panchayat members, Shiv Sena candidate Chandrakant Gatir reportedly hired a helicopter and took seven of them on a joyride to Rajasthan.
Early Monday, the panchayat members flew to Mumbai in the same chopper and returned to the village in the afternoon.
Thrilled by the first-ever chopper ride, all seven supporters, including two women, are reported to have favoured Gatir while the opposition panel could secure only four votes - the poll result would be out Tuesday.
A large number of villagers waited for several hours as many had never seen a helicopter in their life, while the lucky seven on board also flew in one for the first time.
"What was the need for all this? It is clear that whoever is behind this move will exploit the villagers and reap benefits," an angry Vasant Gite, MNS legislator from Nashik (Central) constituency, told IANS.
A district Congress activist told reporters that instead of spending money on development of the backward Mundegaon village, some of its leaders wasted resources on "such showbiz".
Gite said he would raise the matter in the winter session of the legislature next month after consulting his party leaders.
Meanwhile, elections to 2,588 village panchayats in the state were completed Monday notching around 70 percent voter turnout, the election commision said here.
Mundegaon, with a population of around 4,000 and an annual punchayat budget of Rs.5 million, is tucked away in the hills around Igatpuri in the Nashik district.