Raj Thackeray interviews Sharad Pawar in Pune

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Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar met Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray for a one-of-a-kind interview at his alma meter, the Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce in Pune yesterday.

The Marathi event named ‘Mukta Samvad Don Pidhyancha’ (free conversation between two generations) was held to mark Sharad Pawar’s fifty years in active politics. It was organized by Jagatik Marathi Academy, a cultural organization that had been founded by Pawar himself along with others in 1989.

Thackeray began the interview by pointing out that the large 27-year old age difference between the two leaders had put considerable pressure on him. He then went on to ask several questions to Pawar, who answered most of them very frankly for 90-odd minutes.

MNS chief Thackeray asked questions from a wide range of topics, including contemporary politics and even about Pawar’s personal opinions on several contentious issues. Pawar explained how his political journey had begun from that very college, where he had contested and won student elections in his very first year.

When asked whether one should always be truthful in politics, Pawar said speaking the truth is imperative but it should also be avoided if it has the potential to hurt sentiments of people of the society at large.

Raj then asked Pawar about the kind of relations senior Marathi Congress leader Yashwantrao Chavan enjoyed with India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Pawar answered by explaining that Chavan always recognized Nehru’s contribution as invaluable. On that point, Pawar also pointed out that Prime Minister Modi must not discredit Nehru as he did during his budget speech this month.

While further discussing Modi, Thackeray asked whether the Prime Minister consults Pawar, whom he has previously referred to as his political teacher. The former Maharashtra chief minister responded by saying that he has offered advice to Modi on several occasions and that they share cordial relations.

Their discussions later touched upon the possibility of Congress and NCP emerging as strong political contenders to BJP, to which Pawar responded positively. They even discussed other issues like the problems of caste-based discrimination in Maharashtra and other problems affecting the state.