Congress President Smt Sonia Gandhi's Address at the 75th Birthday Celebrations of Shri Sharad Pawar
Dr. Manmohan Singhji,
We have come together on this auspicious and joyous occasion, to celebrate Sharad Pawarji’s 75th birthday.
I have known him for more than two decades. His association with the Congress Party is , of course, much longer going back to his younger days, when he took his first steps in politics. We may have differed on some occasions, as any two individuals would do in a democratic system. But what has always been there is our respect for each other and the mutual belief that the legacy of our Founding Fathers should be protected, preserved and promoted. Although he parted ways with us, the Congress and the NCP have been valued allies.
Sharad Pawarji has a record of enduring achievements in whatever positions he has occupied. He was Chief Minister of Maharashtra three times and he is still remembered for his leadership and effective administration. Most recently, he was Agriculture Minister for a record ten years between 2004 and 2014. No one else could have been in that crucial position for such a long time. He was a natural choice—in fact, the only choice. His tenure was impactful and saw several new achievements. He spoke up with passion for more profitable MSPs. It was during his tenure that production of rice and wheat reached record levels. He imparted a fresh impetus to agricultural research. His contributions to the development of horticulture in particular are widely acknowledged. These are just a few of his numerous achievements.
The presence of so many personalities today cutting across the political spectrum is testimony to Sharad Pawarji's unique talents. His friendship with his political opponents and adversaries are legendary. In the modern language of IT, his networking skills are formidable and those skills are much needed when politics takes on a bitter partisan flavor, as it does every now and then. He is a politician through and through in the best sense of that term.
No tribute to Sharad Pawarji can be complete without a reference to his fondness for cricket. Not many know that his father-in-law, who tragically died at a very young age, was a leg-spinner who played seven Test matches for India. Perhaps this could have been one influence on him apart from the fact that he has spent so much of his life in Mumbai which has been the cradle of much of our cricketing talent. Whatever it is, he has given to Indian cricket administration the famed Sharad Pawar expertise.
I must make special mention of his wife Pratibhatai. She has always remained in the background but, I am sure, has been the anchor of his life for over half a century. Coincidentally, her own birthday falls a day after Sharad Pawarji's and I would like to convey my good wishes to her in advance. In his daughter Supriya, the country has a fine, young and promising leader who has already made an impressive mark in Parliament
I end by wishing Sharad Pawarji all the very best on crossing this milestone. May he continue to bat as he has been doing and score a century at least.