When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday, the leaders seemed to have put the tussle between their two during the Assembly polls behind them.
The bonhomie between the two leaders was visible as Modi shared the stage with Pawar at a public function in Baramati, visited institutions run by the Pawars, had lunch with him and publicly revealed the former union agriculture minister would often help him when the Congress-led UPA government was in power.
Referring to reports about him sharing the dais with Pawar, even after targeting him during the Assembly polls, Modi said: “This is the beauty of democracy. It works on two tracks—vivad (debate) and samvad (dialogue). We have different political agendas, but our aim is the same, which is India’s progress.”
Modi acknowledging his friendship with Pawar has led to speculation about a realignment of political forces in the state. The two leaders insisted there was no political motive behind their coming together, but Modi’s visit to Pawar’s turf is significant, in the wake of relations souring between BJP and its ally Shiv Sena, which has taken potshots at Modi after his party’s rout in the Delhi Assembly polls last week.
Modi’s praise for Pawar came at a farmers’ rally, after the inauguration of the Union government’s Centre for Excellence for Vegetables in Baramati – the bastion of the Pawar clan.
Modi said, “As chief minister of Gujarat, I used face problems [with the Centre]. I would call Sharadrao. He was the only person in the UPA who helped me by keeping our political differences aside. We used to speak 2-3 times a month.”
“Being in power, it is my duty to seek advice from Pawar,” said Modi, adding he was still in touch with the NCP chief.
Pawar, too, insisted his association with Modi was for the development of India and that no political motive should be attached to it. “We may fight in politics for two days. But for the other 363 days, we should be devoted to development. We are always ready to support you in all your development initiatives,” Pawar said.
Pawar asked Modi to help remove barriers on the export of sugar and to improve the condition of dairy farmers.
Modi had earlier appreciated Pawar’s Baramati model of development. He said the Centre will announce an extensive sugar policy that will benefit both farmers and manufacturers. Modi's promise comes in the backdrop of growing unrest among farmers of western Maharashtra – the sugar bowl. The PM also said the government will introduce a soil health card that will help farmers get guidance on crop.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Union agriculture minister Radhe Mohan Singh, state Governor Ch Vidyasagr Rao and NCP leaders Praful Patel, Supriya Sule and former deputy CM Ajit Pawar were also present.
Union agriculture minister Radhe Mohan Singh said a relief package for farmers in Vidarbha and Marathwada will be worked out on Monday.
While in Baramati, Modi visited Vidya Pratishthan, an education institution run by the Pawars and inaugurated the Appasaheb Pawar Auditorium. He then had lunch with Pawar’s family at their residence.
Earlier, Modi inaugurated GE Corporation’s multimodal manufacturing facility at Chakan near Pune, where he assured investors of more reforms and invited the multinational companies to make use of the talented youth in the country.
“I assure corporates India is a land where they can find talents that can help them manufacture products that are very competitive,” Modi told a select audience of corporates.
He said Pune, now being called the ‘Detroit of India’, had the potential to emerge as a hub of defence production.