Hardworking, simple and down to earth. That is how former Union Minister and NCP founder, Sharad Pawar, describes industrialist Gautam Adani in his 2015 autobiography, Lok Majhe Sangati (People, My Companions). The Maratha strongman has never shied away from supporting Adani, even when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack following Hindenburg report allegations against the Adani group. He also opposed the Congress’s demand for a joint parliamentary committee inquiry, and instead favoured a probe by Supreme Court. He told a news channel that Adani was being targeted.
So Pawar inaugurating an industrial plant with Adani in Ahmedabad did not come a surprise to many. Pawar has no qualms posing for a photograph with Adani. He is also learned to have visited Adani’s residence and office. Nonetheless, their meeting did raise eyebrows, especially in the Congress that is clearly not comfortable with Pawar’s close ties with Adani.
But Pawar’s lieutenants make light of meeting. “Pawar sahib was called to inaugurate the plant. So he went there. There is nothing more to it, said NCP Maharashtra president Jayant Patel. “Pawar has excellent personal relations with not just Adani but most of the industry captains”.
The relationship between Adani and Pawar is almost two decades old and dates back to Adani’s early days as a rising businessman. Pawar knows Adani family well, too.
And what has deepened their bonds is that Adani feels indebted to Pawar for life. A source informed that Adani was in the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai when terrorist laid seize on November 26, 2008. Adani called Pawar for help. The Congress-NCP combine was ruling Maharashtra then and the late R R Patil of the NCP was the home minister. Pawar, who was Union Agriculture minister then, asked for Adani and a top Maharashtra bureaucrat to be rescued as one of the top priorities. “Since then Adani has been in sort of a personal debt to Pawar”, said the source.
Also, Pawar had put his weight behind Adani when the coal block awarded to his company was cancelled by Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh as it was too close to the Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve in Maharashtra. It is said that Praful Patel, once a close aide of Pawar, and now a leader in the breakaway NCP group led by Pawar’s nephew Ajit, was instrumental in bringing Adani closer to Pawar. While the autography does not throw any light on this, it does mention how Adani entered the thermal power sector on Pawar’s advice. The book mentions that Pawar made the suggestion at an event held in memory of Patel’s father. Adani then set up a thermal power at Tiroda in Gondia, which was Patel’s Lok Sabha constituency.
Adani and Pawar have had two meetings in recent months. One was in April and another in June, just before Ajit’s rebellion. It was speculated that Adani was reaching out to Pawar on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Similar meetings had taken place in 2014 ahead of the assembly elections in Maharashtra. When the BJP emerged as the single largest party in Maharashtra with 122 of 288 seats, the NCP declared outside support to the Devendra Fadnavis government.
A senior Congress leader said that Modi wants to break the Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra and INDIA at national level, which is why Adani is being used to woo Pawar. “The problem is Pawar keeps meeting him and succeeds in sending confusing signals”, said the leader. He knows that this can create mistrust. So we really don’t know what’s on his mind and whether he will be able to withstand the pressure being applied by Modi through Adani”. (IPA Service)