Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the prestigious Lokmanya Tilak National Award in Pune, which also marks the 103rd death anniversary of freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
“This is a memorable moment for me,” India’s PM said.
The PM paid respect to Lokmanya Tilak and conducted a pooja at Pune’s Dagdusheth Halwai Ganesh temple. He also visited the Ganesh temple on Shivaji Road. The temple’s trustees confirmed that Modi was the first serving PM to pay homage to the holy place.
Earlier, Sharad Pawar’s decision to attend the award ceremony as the chief guest didn’t go down well with a certain section of Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) members, who believed his presence at the event would send a wrong message.
However, Pawar shared the stage with India’s Prime Minister — and going by reports, there were no uneasy vibes between the two. In fact, Modi, according to a report, even had an honest conversation with the NCP chief.
Allies of Pawar’s NCP, including the Congress, expressed displeasure over Pawar’s decision.
The air was resentful in the build-up to the PM’s arrival. Maharashtra Congress vice-president Mohan Joshi said opposition parties under the INDIA banner would be showing black flags to Modi during his visit as a protest over his silence on the violence in Manipur.
Some social organisations and members of different political parties did organise protests. Baba Adhav, a celebrated social activist, led the protest where the participants waved black flags.
“If Sharad Pawar is going to attend this event, it is expected he should pull his disciple’s ears. People don’t want Sharad Pawar to share the stage with the person who has threatened the country’s democracy, Constitution, and the ideology of Shiv, Shahu, Phule, and Ambedkar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had once said in Pune itself that Sharad Pawar was his guru, he joined politics holding Pawar’s finger. Now, if the teacher and his disciple are coming together, Pawar must let Modi know what he is doing is against the ideology of Lokmanya Tilak,” Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe was quoted as saying.
“When a leader from the opposition coalition MVA or INDIA chooses to attend such a function, then confusion is bound to happen. Pawar is an experienced leader, we do not have to tell him all this,” Shiv Sena (UBT) spokesperson Sanjay Raut told a national daily. “There could be confusion about Pawar’s stand. He will have to clear the air but we are together. The MVA is strong and the INDIA coalition is even stronger.”
Supriya Sule said her father was merely honouring the country’s Prime Minister. “The (Tilak Smarak Mandir Trust) trust is honouring the Prime Minister, not Pawar saheb. If the Tilak family thinks it is appropriate to honour the Prime Minister, then I don’t see there is anything wrong with it. Anyways, he is our country’s Prime Minister and not BJP Prime Minister. Maharashtra has always respected the post occupied by an individual. Balasaheb Thackeray and my father often criticised each other. But Pawar saheb always attended the function organised by Balasaheb,” she told another media house.
PM Modi is the 41st recipient of the Lokmanya Tilak National Award, constituted by Tilak Smarak Mandir Trust in 1983, to keep alive the legacy of Lokmanya Tilak. The award, presented on August 1 every year, is bestowed upon eminent personalities from different fields and people who have committed themselves to selfless service to the nation.
Pranab Mukherjee, Indira Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Shankar Dayal Sharma, E Sreedharan, and NR Narayana Murthy among others are former receipts of this award.