Notwithstanding the criticism and pressure built by the Congress and Shiv Sena leaders who are part of the INDIA alliance, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar attended an award ceremony as chief guest in Pune on Tuesday where PM Narendra Modi was conferred Lokmanya Tilak National Award.
In fact, this was for the first time when Sharad Pawar shared the stage with PM Modi and his rebel nephew Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar who engineered the split in the NCP to join hands with the BJP and Shiv Sena faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.
While PM Modi was in Pune, opposition parties, including Sharad Pawar’s NCP, held demonstrations the Prime Minister’s “inaction” on violence in Manipur.
Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray, through its editorial in mouthpiece Saamna, had appealed Pawar not to share stage with Modi.
After meeting all the dignitaries on the dais, PM Modi went to Sharad Pawar and spoke to him while holding his hands.
While they were seen laughing, they both gave each other a pat on the back.
Former union minister Sushilkumar Shinde witnessed the bonhomie between the two.
While the dialogue between the two remained undisclosed to the media, speculations were rife about Pawar’s role in the INDIA alliance.
However, close confidants of Pawar said that it was Pawar who had played a role of communicator to convey the message of Tilak family to Modi requesting him to receive the award.
The programme was finalised three months ago and Pawar had already told INDIA alliance members that politics and personal relations should not be mixed together.
After he became Prime Minister in 2014, PM Modi had showered praises on Pawar.
In 2016, when PM was in Pune, he had praised Pawar as an “example” to others in public life.
“I have personal respect for Sharadrao. I was Gujarat chief minister. He helped me walk by holding my finger. I feel proud to pronounce this publicly,” Modi said.
Since then Modi and Pawar have praised each other on public forums even as the later has repeatedly refused to join hands with the BJP in the State and the national level.
Pawar supporters said that their leader has already convened the meeting of opposition parties in the State on August 5 to discuss the strategy to strengthen INDIA in Maharashtra.