Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday became instrumental in bringing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the same dais for the first time in their long political careers.
It was a function to felicitate Pawar on his 75th birthday at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan, barely two kilometres from Parliament where the government and the principal Opposition party have been trading barbs over the National Herald case for the past three days.
In what came as a testimony of Pawar’s political standing and clout, a galaxy of leaders from across the political spectrum gathered to felicitate the former Union minister and four-term Maharashtra chief minister. President Pranab Mukherjee praised Pawar for his role in turning India into a net exporter of food grains from being an importer.
Lauding Pawar for his commitment to the uplift of farmers and his focus on “innovation in agriculture”, the Prime Minister said, “He has the quality of a farmer who can gauge the weather. Sharad Rao has used it fully in politics. Ask Sharad Rao which way the political wind will blow.”
Sonia Gandhi also expressed her respect for Pawar. “We may have differences on some occasions, as any two individuals will have, but what has always been there is our respect for each other… He is a politician through and through in the best sense of the term,” she said and also acknowledged Pawar’s “formidable networking skills” as was evident from his friendship with politicians across the board.
Although the PM and the Congress President did not exchange any words, they were seen clapping in appreciation at the end of each other’s speeches. While leaving, the PM shook hands with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who had come on the dais for a group photo session.