Maharashtra village boycotts civic elections due to booze party deaths

Ahmednagar (Maharashtra), Feb 16 (IANS) In a rare display of solidarity, all the 1,100 voters boycotted Thursday’s polling for the Jeur Gram Panchayat in Ahmednagar district to protest the deaths of seven locals in a poll-eve dinner and booze party thrown by two Shiv Sena candidates, an official said.

The village Sarpanch, Bapusaheb G. Awhad said that the February 12 party for activists has claimed seven lives so far and another six victims are under treatment, including three who are critical.

“We have submitted a memorandum to the Ahmednagar collector seeking compensation of Rs 15 lakh for each of the victims, most of who eked out a hand-to-mouth existence and were sole breadwinners for their families,” Awhad told IANS.

However, there has been no communication from the collectorate after which the entire village boycotted the elections held on Thursday, where Shiv Sena’s Mangal Mokate was the sole contestant, he added.

The State Election Commission and police security had arrived in time for conducting the polls and left after the polling hours, without registering a single vote.

Social activist and Bhumata Ranragini Brigade President Trupti Desai said it is shocking that such a major incident has occurred but neither of the ruling allies – Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena “have even bothered” to comment on this.

“Police investigations has revealed that the illicit liquor served in that party was manufactured in the canteen of a local government hospital, which is very close to the police outpost nearby.. How could this happen? These are nothing but ‘political murders’ and we shall protest against them tomorrow,” Desai told IANS.

The party, where food and liquor flowed freely, was hosted on last Sunday night for party workers, activists and other local supporters in Jeur, near Pangarmal village, around 30 km from here.

The following day, over a dozen persons started complaining of uneasiness, headaches, chest pain and severe vomiting. They were rushed to local hospitals.

By late Monday evening at least three persons died and the fourth one succumbed on Tuesday morning, said investigating officer Rahul Pawar, with three more deaths reported till Thursday.

Initially, the police booked six persons under various sections, include the two women candidates, Bhagyashree Mokate and Mangal M. Awhad, from Jeur where zero voting election was held on Thursday.

The others are Govind Mokate (candidate’s father), Mahadev Awhad (candidate’s husband) and a local party activist Bhimraj Ginwavar.

All have been booked for various offences, including for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and probe is on to the trace others involved in the tragedy.

Desai added that this tragedy has again highlighted the urgent need to implement total prohibition in Maharashtra, on the lines of Gujarat or Bihar so innocent lives can be saved.