I am humbled, says Sharad Pawar on Padma Vibhushan
“I am humbled. The credit goes to those who strived hard to make my work a success,” said Nationalist Congress Chief Sharad Pawar on getting the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian awardmumbai Updated: Jan 27, 2017 09:17 IST
“I am humbled. The credit goes to those who strived hard to make my work a success,” said Nationalist Congress Chief Sharad Pawar on getting the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award.
Known to have friends across the political spectrum, Pawar has dominated public life in Maharashtra and been a key figure in Indian politics for decades. In fact, the grand function in New Delhi in February 2016 to celebrate his 50 years as a legislator saw the who’s who of Indian politics gather on one stage – President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and the top leaders of all political parties.
“For my continuous 50-year-long career in the state legislature and Parliament, there are a number of party workers who worked for my election year after year. During elections, I used to hold just one public meeting in my constituency and my workers used to handle the campaign,” he told Hindustan Times on Wednesday.
During the post-Emergency era, he was seen as a promising leader of the anti-Congress parties. After the emergence of Rajiv Gandhi, he returned to the Congress. He even made a bid for the Prime Minister’s post when the Congress won the election after Rajiv’s assassination, but lost out to PV Narasimha Rao.
Pawar was an early supporter of liberalisation, backing Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister in opening up India’s economy. He quit the Congress for the second time to form the Nationalist Congress Party but later mended fences with Sonia Gandhi and remained a reliable ally till the UPA lost power in 2014.
During his decade-long tenure as agriculture minister in Manmohan Singh’s government, Pawar is credited with giving a major push to the agriculture sector. It was during this period that the UPA government waived the loans of farmers ahead of the 2009 elections.
“When my consent was sought for the award, I asked them why they wanted to give it to me. I was given three reasons: The progress India made in the field of agriculture during the ten years when I was agriculture minister. India started exporting agricultural products that it used to import earlier. Second, the way I handled the state administration in Maharashtra during two disasters – the Latur earthquake and the Mumbai riots-bomb blasts. The third reason was my 50-year-long political career in which I was always elected to either the Maharashtra Legislature or Parliament,” Pawar said.
“However, the credit for India’s progress in agriculture should go to the farmers who worked hard, the scientists/experts at the Indian Council for Agriculture Research and various agriculture universities, which developed new varieties that helped farmers to produce more,” Pawar said.
On September 30, 1993, a 6.2 Richter scale earthquake struck Latur and Osmanabad district. About 10,000 people in 52 villages died and about 30,000 were injured. Pawar camped at Latur to supervise rescue and relief. The teams worked overtime to prevent outbreak of diseases and provide help to the injured and homeless.
On March 12, 1993, Mumbai was rocked by 12 serial bomb blasts across the city, killing 257 and injuring 700 persons. Within two-three days, the city returned to normalcy and even the Bombay Stock Exchange started functioning soon. Pawar was credited with ensuring law and order was maintained.
Pawar himself said on Wednesday that the credit in both these cases should go to the people in the administration who worked hard to restore normalcy.
Down-to-earth in his approach, Pawar enjoyed cordial relations with most prominent politicians including Narendra Modi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Jyoti Basu, Pramod Mahajan and Farooq Abdullah. He was also known for his friendly ties with litterateurs, actors, social workers and even industrialists.
Asked about his feelings on receiving the award, Pawar said his thoughts were with his late mother, Shardabai. “She would have been very happy to see her third son too getting a Padma award. My brothers, Appasaheb and Prataprao, were awarded the Padma Shri earlier,” he said.