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India minister requests that people vote twice

NEW DELHI -- An Indian cabinet minister found himself at the center of a vote-rigging dispute Monday, after he asked supporters to vote twice for his party in elections that begin next month.

Speaking at a rally on Sunday, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar urged voters to wash off the ink that would be daubed on their fingers after they cast their ballots and then go to a different constituency and vote again for his National Congress Party.

After pointing out that voting in two neighboring parts of Maharashtra was taking place on different days, Pawar told supporters in the state: “Vote for the 'Clock' (his party's symbol) there and come back to vote for the 'Clock' here as well,” he said to loud laughter.

The comments were seized on by a number of rivals in the elections that begin April 7, including the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party that said it would complain to the electoral commission over the “blatant contravention” of its code of conduct.

Pawar, currently an ally of the main ruling Congress party but who has been flirting with the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, later tried to laugh off his remarks, saying they were meant as “a joke.”

“Party workers get bored with the same cliched electoral speeches. The statement which I made earlier in the day was in lighter vein,” he added.

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