Pune: Have you ever faced problems for speaking truth in politics?” Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) head Raj Thackeray asked Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar at a first-of-its-kind public interview in Pune on Wednesday evening.
“You have to speak truth in politics. But I would prefer not speaking it when it could hurt the society or the person concerned. It is better you avoid saying the truth,” Pawar answered.
The interview, named Mukta Samvad Don Pidhyancha (free exchange between two generations), was organised by Jagatik Marathi Academy, which Pawar himself founded in 1989 with others, to mark his 50 years in electoral politics. In fact, Thackeray began by admitting to the “pressure of generation gap” he was under for this interview. Pawar and Thackeray are 27 years apart. The stage was chosen carefully—the ground of Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, which Pawar attended from 1958 to 1964.
“When I came to this college, fellow students who were from Pune ridiculed me for being a rural person. But I began taking control of the college, got elected as a student representative in the first year itself, and was the general secretary in the final year,” Pawar said, revealing his early rise in electoral politics. He recalled that he fought his first election exactly 52 years back on February 21.
Both Pawar and Thackeray share their fondness for music, literature, and many things not necessarily political. Both belong to the Marathi mould of politicians but there are nuanced differences. Pawar has stayed on the national stage for long, and has obviously aspired for the top job. Thackeray, meanwhile, has chosen to limit his politics to the Marathi cause and constituency. In 2006, when he stormed out of the Shiv Sena and formed his own party, Thackeray had compared his case with Pawar. Thackeray said only the NCP founder, who had walked out of the Congress party opposing Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins in 1999, would know the pains of building a new political organisation from scratch.
There have been other instances of friendly banter and exchanges of sharp repartees between the two—one a veteran practitioner of realpolitik and the other a sharp-witted renegade who has modelled himself on his more charismatic uncle Bal Thackeray and who rebelled against his mild-mannered cousin brother Uddhav.
In 2006 again, Pawar had mocked Thackeray for being a late-riser, saying those who aspired to build a political party had to rise early enough to be fresh to meet people.
Pawar, 77, is a famous early-riser and political journalists recount instances when they have been granted interviews at 7 am. Not to be outwitted, Raj Thackeray, 49, had responded saying he had started using an alarm clock which wakes him with a ringer called “Pawarrrrr”!
Meanwhile, Pawar has continued to praise Prime Minister Narendra Modi occasionally amid large doses of criticism and even meets him. Meanwhile, Thackeray, and the caricaturist in him, has gone from being a Modi admirer to a sharp critic.
The interview was marked by witty as well as nasty references to Modi. Thackeray, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, reminded the audience that Pawar lived in a locality called ‘Modi Bagh’ in Pune. Pawar laughed it off.
Both Pawar and Thackeray made critical references to Modi. For instance, Pawar was extremely critical of Modi’s recent parliament speech in which the Prime Minister blamed Jawaharlal Nehru and the Gandhi family for several ills in the country. “I have seen from close quarters how Atal Bihari Vajpayee conducted himself in politics and how he was charitable to those who were opposed to his ideology,” Pawar said. But he did add that he continues to maintain an excellent personal rapport with Modi, and reminded Thackeray how he and Thackeray’s uncle Balasaheb, despite being political adversaries, remained personal friends all along. Pawar also ridiculed Modi’s famous tribute to him as his “political guru”. “He obviously did not mean it. He started his politics somewhere else,” Pawar said.livemint