NCP chief Sharad Pawar may have broken ranks with other opposition parties on the Adani issue, but his friendship with Gautam Adani dates back to nearly two decades when the businessman was exploring expansion into the coal sector.
In his Marathi autobiography 'Lok Maze Saangati…' published in 2015, Mr. Pawar has lavished praise on Mr. Adani describing him as “hard-working, simple, down to earth” and with ambition to make big in the infrastructure sector.
The veteran leader also wrote that it was at his insistence that Mr. Adani ventured into the thermal power sector.
Mr. Pawar recounts in the book how Mr. Adani built his corporate empire from scratch starting as a salesman in Mumbai locals, dabbling in small ventures before trying his luck in the diamond industry.
“He was earning well in the diamond industry, but Gautam was not interested in that. He had ambitions to enter the infrastructure sector. He had good relations with Gujarat Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel and had submitted a proposal to develop a port at Mundhra,” the NCP chief wrote.
He recalled that Mr. Patel had warned Mr. Adani of the port being closer to the Pakistan border and in an arid region. “Despite the adversities, he accepted the challenge”.
Mr. Pawar wrote that later Mr. Adani made his foray in the coal sector and it was at his suggestion that the businessman ventured into the thermal power sector.
Mr. Pawar, who was the then Union Agriculture Minister, said he had made the suggestion to Mr. Adani during a function to mark the death anniversary of NCP leader Praful Patel's father at Gondiya in Maharashtra.
“Gautam acknowledged my suggestion in his speech. Usually, nothing much happens on statements made from the podium, but Gautam pursued the matter and established a 3,000 MW thermal power plant in Bhandara,” the former Maharashtra Chief Minister said.
In the book, Mr. Pawar recounts how he developed close ties with several businessmen as he sought to usher in development in Maharashtra during his decades-long political career.
The NCP chief said he remained in regular touch with business leaders who could meet him without appointment daily between 2 pm and 4 pm during his tenure as the chief minister.
Mr. Pawar recounted his arrangement with the then Gujarat Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel, who would divert big projects to Maharashtra. Mr. Pawar said he reciprocated the gesture by sending some small projects to Gujarat, an arrangement that ensured the two states scaled greater heights on the economic front.
Mr. Pawar has also written about how he helped Hyundai Motors set up a manufacturing plant in Tamil Nadu after the Korean carmaker faced some hurdles in setting up business in Maharashtra during the Shiv Sena-BJP rule.
Amid a strident opposition campaign demanding an investigation into the Adani Group by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, Mr. Pawar surprised his fellow opposition leaders by favouring a probe into the dealings of the Gujarat-based business house by a Supreme Court-appointed panel.
Mr. Pawar also came out in support of the Adani Group and criticised the narrative around Hindenburg Research's report on the conglomerate, saying that he felt that the business group was “targeted” and that he was not aware of the antecedents of the US-based short-selling firm.
Mr. Pawar has charted a different course than the Congress on issues such as criticism of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and the Adani Group.