This year’s list of Padma awardees has many unsung heroes that the Indian state has recognised, but statecraft is definitely a part of the calculation in the list of politicians honoured.
Political motives in giving Padma awards
Leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Sharad Pawar and P.A. Sangma, his former comrade-in-arms in the rebellion against Congress president Sonia Gandhi over her foreign origin, have been awarded Padma Vibhushan. Mr. Sangma will get the award posthumously.
In his long and storied career in Indian politics, Mr. Pawar has friends across party lines, as witnessed during his 75th birthday celebrations in 2015. His place on the list of Padma awardees points to the balancing act Mr. Modi wants to maintain in Maharashtra where his ally, Shiv Sena, can only be described — if one wants to be charitable — as a “frenemy.” Mr. Modi is signalling to the Shiv Sena that he needs to see it cut line.
P.A. Sangma’s case is simpler. His son, Conrad Sangma, heads the National People’s Party (NPP), which the former Lok Sabha Speaker launched after he broke away from the NCP. The NPP is part of the North Eastern Democratic Alliance (NEDA) affiliated to the NDA. The acknowledgement of Sangma’s contribution to Indian public life is part of the BJP’s look-east policy in domestic politics.
Finally, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi’s inclusion in the list comes two years after his contemporary and fellow Margdarshak Mandal member L.K. Advani was similarly rewarded. With the elections under way in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP wants to ensure that a crucial Brahmin vote doesn’t feel slighted in any form.