Today is Mr. Sharad Pawar's birthday and a few tributes are due:
Jokes apart, we have definitely the best chief minister in the country. Imagine if we had Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav as chief minister. Or, equally bad and perhaps worse, Mr. Laloo Parsad Yadav as chief minister. And all those gentlemen who gon on to make the chief ministers of Madya Pradesh and Rajasthan and Taml Nadu. The only chief minister who comes anywhere near Mr. Pawar is Mr. Jyoti Basu. But then he is a communist in a world where there are no communists left.
Mr. Pawar is also the best chief minister that Maharastra, and for that matter the old Bombay state, has ever had. To find somebody near him, you would have to go back to Mr. Sudhakar Nayak.
I have often felt that Mr. Nayak and Mr. Pawar share several similar qualities. A general the liberal attitude towards the affairs of the state, a comfortable informality of approach, not self-opinionated, practical, non-interfering in the personal lives of the citizens.
Mr. Pawar has friends everywhere: he knows the poor farmers and their problems well, and he is friendly with top industrialists, socialities. And he has friends on both sides in politics. That is why he could talk to both Mr. Chandra Shekhar and Mr. Rajiv Gandhi man-to-man and get the latter to support the former. That is also how he could convert the sensitive Mr. Bal Thackeray into a friend.
Mr. Chandra Shekhar today, perhaps, trusts him more than any other politician in the country, expect possibly Mr. Yashwant Sinha and one or two other ministers of him. And Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, if he has the intelligence, should fear him more than any other politician.
I have know Mr. Pawar for several years and through several vicissitudes (if that is the right word) of his fortunes. Twice I have interviewed him when he was out of power, and on both occasions he behaved like he was still the chief minister. The confidence was always there, confidence without arrogance. And on one memorable occasion, I had lunch with Mr. Rajni Patel, Mr. S. Nijalingappa and Mr. Pawar. That's all, nobody else. It was one of the memorable events of my life and even now I can tell you the menu.
Rajni Patel also shared qualities with Mr. Pawar. They were, and are, the practical politicians of India. No pointless ideologies and empty talk (bhashan as Khushwant Singh would say), just get on with the work.
So today, on the occasion of his 50th-51st birthday, I wish Sharad Pawar the best and thank whoever is responsible for it for having made him the chief minister of Maharastra, and not some Chenna Reddy. And it is because I want to share this good fortune with the rest of the country that I wish he becomes the prime minister of India this year.