Some Opposition leaders are expected to meet Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar today (31 July) to convince him to not attend an event in Maharashtra’s Pune felicitating Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Pawar is slated to confer the Lokmanya Tilak National Award on the Indian premier at Pune’s SP College ground on 1 August.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his deputies, Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, are also expected to mark their presence at the event. The function comes nearly a month after Ajit rebelled against his uncle, Sharad Pawar, along with eight other NCP MLAs to join the Eknath Shinde-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Maharashtra.
Why is the Opposition miffed at Sharad Pawar sharing the dais with Prime Minister Modi? Let’s take a closer look.
The Opposition has expressed concern over the octogenarian sharing the stage with Modi.
As per The Hindu report, several leaders of the INDIA coalition had raised the issue at a meeting in Parliament on Friday (28 July), worrying that it would be “bad optics” when the Opposition alliance is at loggerheads with the Central government over Manipur violence.
The INDIA grouping has been demanding the prime minister address the Manipur issue in Parliament that has led to a logjam. The Congress has also moved a no-confidence motion against the Central government in Lok Sabha to achieve this goal.
Many INDIA members expressed “disappointment” over Pawar’s likely visit to the scheduled event, with some suggesting that Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge or another leader should dissuade the NCP patriarch, reported The Hindu.
As the contentious Delhi services Bill could reach the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday (1 August), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders said Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal would implore senior Pawar to skip the award function and remain in Delhi for the legislation. Kejriwal has been trying to bring anti-BJP parties on board to vote against the Bill.
Opposition delegation to meet Sharad Pawar
A group of leaders from various political parties, including the Pawar’s NCP faction, the Congress, the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), the AAP and the CPI(M), led by socialist leader Baba Adhav is set to meet Sharad Pawar to urge him not to felicitate Modi, as per an Indian Express report.
Terming Pawar sharing stage with Modi “not appropriate”, Shiv Sena (UBT) spokesperson Sanjay Raut, as per Indian Express, 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.”
“The BJP has not just broken the NCP into two pieces but the prime minister 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 image and reputation. I think Pawar should avoid attending the function,” he added.
NCP Rajya Sabha MP Vandana Chavan also urged Pawar to skip the award function. “Personally, I am against our party chief sharing the stage with PM Modi who has broken our party and accused us of corruption. I urged Pawar saheb to stay away from the event. However, he said it was he who invited the PM to the function. He did it after being persuaded by members of the Tilak Trust, which is organising the felicitation. And this was before the Ajit Pawar-led rebellion,” she was quoted as saying by Indian Express.
The Congress, which is part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance in the state along with Sharad Pawar-led NCP and Shiv Sena (UBT), said that it is the veteran politician’s decision whether to attend the award ceremony or not.
The Lokmanya Tilak Award is conferred by the Tilak Smarak Mandir Trust, whose trustee is Congress leader Rohit Tilak, great-grandson of freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
Tilak had confirmed Sharad Pawar’s presence at the award function as the chief guest on Saturday. “Even as the Lok Sabha’s Monsoon Session is underway, Pawar will be attending the event and may leave for Delhi immediately,” he said, as per Hindustan Times (HT).
Protest against PM Narendra Modi
Sharad Pawar’s NCP camp, the Congress, Shiv Sena (UBT) and some social organisations have planned to stage a protest against the prime minister on Tuesday as he arrives in Pune.
NCP’s Pune president Prashant Jagtap said the protest is about Modi not visiting Manipur which has been suffering from ethnic conflict since 3 May. “When there is unrest in Manipur, the prime minister is not showing any concern over the issue but coming to Pune to accept the award. We demand that the PM should visit Manipur first,” he said, as per HT.
“Prime Minister has time to visit foreign countries but no time to visit Manipur. He doesn’t even have time to speak about Manipur in Parliament. To condemn this, we have decided to protest, and senior activist Baba Adhav will lead the agitation,” Congress Maharashtra unit’s vice president Mohan Joshi told the daily.
Modi is to be conferred with Lokmanya Tilak National Award for his ‘supreme leadership’ and for ‘awakening the feeling of patriotism among citizens’, noted HT. After the event, the prime minister will flag off metro trains and launch several development projects in Pune.
With inputs from agencies