Pune Congress opposes Tilak trust’s move to felicitate PM Modi

Modi will be the 41st recipient of the Lokmanya Tilak National Award. Former prime ministers Manmohan Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Indira Gandhi are among the past recipients of this award

Cyrus Poonawalla receives Lokmanya Tilak National Award 2021 (Image for representational purpose)
Cyrus Poonawalla receives Lokmanya Tilak National Award 2021 (Image for representational purpose)

Nadeem Inamdar

The Pune City Congress has raised strong objections to Tilak Smarak Mandir Trust’s decision to confer the annual Lokmanya Tilak National Award on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The trust is headed by Congress leader Rohit, the great grandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and the national coordinator of Indian Youth Congress. The prestigious award is conferred annually by the trust on the occasion of Tilak's death anniversary.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak was a prominent Congress figure in India’s freedom struggle and played a crucial role in mobilising the masses towards self-rule or Swaraj.  

In the past, the award has been conferred on former prime ministers Manmohan Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Indira Gandhi. Modi will be the 41st recipient of this award. He will receive the award at the hands of Trust president and Rohit’s father Deepak Tilak at a ceremony on August 1.

Interestingly, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Supremo Sharad Pawar is the chief guest at the function. Amongst the invitees are Maharashtra governor Ramesh Bais, chief minister Eknath Shinde, deputy chief ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, and former chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

Pune City Congress chief Arvind Shinde expressed displeasure over the trust’s decision to confer the award on PM Modi. “Rohit Tilak is a Congressman and giving the award to a prime minister under whom the central investigative agencies have launched a witch hunt against Congress leadership is not acceptable,” Shinde said.

“Our leader Rahul Gandhi and Congress leadership are criticising the authoritarian policies of PM Modi and the workers are extremely displeased with the decision of Rohit, who is a Congress office bearer. The decision has impacted scores of party workers as the award is being given to an ideological opponent of our party,” he added.

Reacting to the Congress objections, Rohit Tilak said that the award was planned a few months ago and both Sharad Pawar and PM Modi had given their consent for the programme. “Not much should be read into the award as it is non-political in nature. In the recent past the award was given to former prime minister Indira Gandhi, A.B. Vajypayee and Manmohan Singh for their contributions to the country.”

“The award was also given to illustrious personalities from the world of science and social work comprising N.R. Narayanmurthy, G. Madhavan, Dr Koti Harinarayan, Cyrus Poonawala and Prakash Amte. Lokmanya Tilak gave the call of Swaraj while PM Modi has given the call of Surajya (good governance)... The award is being given to him for nation building and bringing India onto the world stage,” Rohit Tilak said.

As former National Student Union of India (NSUI) state president, Rohit Tilak had contested Kasba Assembly seat twice on Congress ticket but lost. Speculation has been rife that the Tilak scion might be joining the BJP though he has refuted the speculations.

The Tilak family today is divided between the BJP and the Congress and, sources say, there could be personal pressures on Rohit [for him make this decision].


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