The 26 opposition parties, under the banner I.N.D.I.A., have announced that they will stage a protest and raise black flags during PM Modi’s recent visit to Pune on the 1st of August. In Pune, PM Modi will be conferred with Lokmanya Tilak National Award for 2023 for his outstanding leadership and ‘awakening the feeling of patriotism among citizens’.
During the event, NCP founder Sharad Pawar and Former Union Home Minister and senior Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde, who is a trustee, will also be present at the event to honour PM Modi.
It is important to note that NCP veteran Sharad Pawar will not only be present at the event, but he will also be the one conferring the award on PM Modi during the facilitation programme at the S P College ground. This development is coming in the wake of the vertical split that recently took place within the NCP. It was seen as a major dent in the image and politics of Sharad Pawar and the Maga Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance in Maharashtra.
This contrarian public stance by Pawar to felicitate PM Modi has not gone down well among the opposition alliance. Speaking to the media, several leaders in the MVA alliance have issued a public appeal urging Pawar to not attend the programme and share the stage with PM Modi.
Subsequently, a delegation led by socialist leader Baba Adhav decided to meet Pawar, later on Sunday, 30 July. The delegation included political parties – Shiv Sena (UBT), AAP, CPI(M) and Pawar’s own faction. They asked him to change his mind and not attend the event as it will send the wrong signal. According to them, this would mean a thaw with Ajit Pawar’s faction and that he has extended his support to his nephew.
When asked about the decision taken by their party head, NCP (Sharad Pawar)’s Pune chief Prashant Jagtap said, “An all-party delegation will be meeting our party chief to convince him to not attend the event. He is likely to come to Pune from Mumbai this evening after which we plan to meet him and urge him to drop out of the function.”
MVA alliance urges Sharad Pawar to not send the wrong signals
The Shiv Sena (UBT), an NCP(Sharad Pawar) ally in MVA, stated that Pawar’s decision “does not look appropriate” and asserted that Pawar should not be seen felicitating PM Modi.
The party’s spokesperson Sanjay Raut said, “When the Prime Minister is calling the constituents of INDIA all sorts of names and when he and his party have wrecked the NCP, it does not look appropriate for the NCP chief to attend the event and bestow the honour on the Prime Minister.”
Raut claimed that if Pawar attended the event and honoured PM Modi, he would harm his own image and reputation.
He added, “The BJP has not just broken the NCP into two factions but the PM has described the NCP as a corrupt party. If the NCP has suffered so much, then how can its party head felicitate the Prime Minister? By doing so, Pawar will be harming his own image and reputation. I think Pawar should avoid attending the function.”
UBT’s mouthpiece Raut argued that by this move, Pawar would have sent the wrong signal. He stated that this will create confusion in the minds of the people and the NCP workers and supporters. It will mean that Ajit Pawar has the support of the NCP national president.
Hitting out at Sharad Pawar and terming the NCP feud as ‘nautanki’, VBA chief Prakash Ambedkar, another ally within MVA, argued that it was all a fixed match and this decision indicates that.
He stated that Pawar’s decision was a “clear indication that the so-called Ajit Pawar-led rebellion has his backing. He said, “I think it was all a ‘nautanki’. By attending the event, Pawar will be providing legitimacy to the BJP’s act. You are honouring the same person for breaking your party into two halves. This is beyond imagination.”
Although Congress leaders will be part of the delegation that will meet Pawar, state Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe stated that Congress’ state chief Nana Patole has already said the NCP chief has to take the call about whether to attend the function or not. Therefore, we are leaving it to him.
Similarly, senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan refused to comment on Pawar’s decision. However, its state vice president Mohan Joshi stressed that some Congress leaders will be part of the opposition parties under the banner of INDIA would raise black flags when Modi arrives in Pune.
Sharad Pawar sidelines the opposition to his decision, trust Vice-President confirms his participation
The Lokmanya Tilak Award is conferred by the Tilak Smarak Mandir Trust and Congress leader Rohit Tilak is a trustee and vice-President of the trust.
Confirming that Pawar will attend the event, Tilak said, “We have received confirmation of his participation. The award will be presented to the Prime Minister by the trust president, who is my father, and the chief guest.”
Reflecting on the opposition parties objections over the event, Tilak who is the great-grandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, categorically asserted that this is a non-political dais.
He added that in the past, the trust has honoured PMs Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The trust honoured people from diverse fields and different ideologies for their outstanding work.
Claiming that PM Modi is the right recipient of the award, Rohit said, “Swadeshi and Rashtriya Shikshan were close to the heart of Lokmanya Tilak. The Prime Minister has lived up to the vision of Lokmanya Tilak. He has preserved and protected our cultural roots. He is pursuing concepts like Atma Nirbhar India, and making India self-reliant which Lokmanya strongly believed in and propagated during the pre-Independence days. And therefore, the PM was our choice for the award.”
Meanwhile, Union Minister Ramdas Athawale claimed that PM Modi and Sharad Pawar might discuss stitching an alliance for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
In an exclusive interview with India TV, Athawale said that both leaders will meet in Pune and speak on several matters including a possible alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2024.