It was probably for the first time in his political career spanning over five decades that Maratha strongman and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief, Sharad Pawar, apologised to the media and, that too, for controversial remarks made by his nephew and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.
Ajit had, during a public meet in Nanded on February 5, had said that the media should be banned because it gives negative publicity. He said this when television cameras shifted focus to a farmer who had interrupted Ajit’s speech to ask a question.
"I have been reading this in the newspapers," Pawar told journalists in Kolhapur on Friday. "If what has appeared in newspapers is true, as NCP chief, I won’t have any hesitation in apologising if any NCP worker, whoever he may be, has made any derogatory remarks."
Within hours of Pawar’s statement, the associations of journalists withdrew their agitation against Ajit. Journalists have been boycotting government functions since Ajit’s statements.
In an attempt to end the controversy, Pawar took the initiative on Friday and offered to apologise on his nephew’s behalf. The Union agriculture minister, however, also wanted senior journalists to probe the whole episode.
"I am tendering an apology on the basis of what has appeared in the newspapers. But you must have recorded clippings of the event," Pawar said. "Let senior journalists check what has been said. This is not my condition but a request."
Pawar said if it is found that Ajit had not made any derogatory statements, the media should decide what to do next. "We will say nothing," Pawar said. "They [journalists] should think about why this happened."