Remarking that Lokmanya Tilak was a great institution builder and a nurturer of traditions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 1 accepted the prestigious Lokmanya Tilak National award at a power-packed event in Pune where he shared the stage with opposition leader and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.
The PM, who offered worship at the city’s iconic Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati temple before the award ceremony, was greeted with protests staged by the several outfits as well as the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition, including Mr. Pawar’s own NCP faction, who waved black flags to the PM for failing to address the turmoil in the state of Manipur.
“Tilakji completely changed the direction of the Indian freedom movement with his ‘Swarajya is my birthright’ claim. Even the British were forced to acknowledge him as the ‘father of Indian unrest’. Mahatma Gandhi had hailed him as the creator of a Modern India. The respect that I have received in Pune today is an unforgettable experience of my life. It is an emotional moment for me,” the PM said, after being presented with the 41st Lokmanya Tilak award on the occasion of the freedom fighter’s 103rd death anniversary.
Dedicating the award to the 140 crore citizens of India, the PM assured that the government will leave no stone unturned to help them fulfil their dreams and aspirations.
Remarking that Tilak broke the myth of inferiority complex among Indians and showed them their capabilities, the PM stressed the relevance of Lokmanya Tilak’s ideas, his commitment to journalism and newspapers and his vision for the youth.
“Speaking of his perceptiveness in recognizing promising youth, Tilak recognised Veer Savarkar’s [Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar] capabilities. He wanted Savarkar to go abroad and come back and work for India…Tilakji understood the importance of journalism and newspapers in strengthening the voice of freedom. He started the weekly ‘Mahratta’ in English and the ‘Kesari’ in the Marathi language along with Gopal Ganesh Agarkar and V.S. Chiplunkar. Even after 140 years, the ‘Kesari’ is still being read in Maharashtra. All this is proof of his solid institution-building,” he said.
Stating that country’s development was not possible “in an environment of mistrust”, Mr. Modi said the country had moved from “trust deficit” to “trust surplus” in the past nine years.
Before being seated on dais, Mr. Modi exchanged pleasantries with Mr. Pawar and the leaders shared a moment of bonhomie where the NCP chief was seen patting Mr. Modi.
Last month, days before the split within the NCP, the PM had targeted Mr. Pawar and his party leaders during an address in Bhopal, alleging scams to the tune of nearly ₹70,000 crore committed by NCP leaders. Mr. Pawar’s sharing of the dais has sparked unease within both the state-level Opposition MVA and the national-level INDIA coalition.
“I want to tell PM Modi that Pune has a unique importance in the country’s history. The whole world knows Chhatrapati Shivaji’s history. He was born in Shivneri fort (in Pune district) and spent his childhood in Pune’s Lal Mahal. While there have been many kings and rulers in this country, Shivaji’s rule was different in that it was not a dynasty of the Bhonsales [Shivaji’s clan], but a kingdom for the people,” Mr. Pawar said.
Congratulating Mr. Modi, Mr. Pawar said he was happy that the PM’s name was added to the roster of recipients of the prestigious Tilak award.The NCP chief also shared stage with his nephew, rebel NCP leader and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, who engineered the split in Mr. Pawar’s party. However, uncle and nephew refrained from communicating with each other.
Mr. Pawar’s ally, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) expressed their displeasure at the NCP chief attending the function through an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana.
“PM Modi accused the NCP of corruption and then engineered a split in Mr. Pawar’s party. Still, Sharad Pawar welcomes Modi. This has not gone down well with people. This was a good opportunity for Sharad Pawar to turn his back on the programme and clear the doubts about him among the people,” said the Sena (UBT).