Mumbai: Taking a subtle swipe at top BJP leadership and especially former NCP leader Udayanraje Bhosale, Maharashtra cabinet minister Jitendra Awhad on Tuesday defended the "Janata Raja" honorific for party chief Sharad Pawar.
Earlier in the day, BJP leader Bhosale, a direct descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, had said that only the Maratha warrior king can be called 'Janata Raja' (enlightened king).
The remarks were viewed as a swipe at Sharad Pawar who is sometimes given this epithet by his supporters.
Bhosale's remarks came amid a controversy over a book written by a BJP leader comparing Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chhatrapati Shivaji.
"Sharad Pawar has an answer for every problem Maharashtra is faced with and hence, he is called 'Janata Raja'," Awhad, a senior NCP leader, told reporters.
He also took potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without taking his name, for his 2016 remark praising Pawar.
Modi had said that Pawar had held his hand and taught him to walk in his early days as a politician in Gujarat.
"...Some people say, we entered politics holding hand of him (Pawar)...some people have scored headlines only by criticising him (Pawar). Yes, he is a 'Janata Raja'," Awhad said.
Awhad hailed Pawar for decisions like ensuring 50 per cent reservation to women in local governing bodies and renaming the Marathwada University in Maharashtra as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar University.
"Pawar has made the maximum contribution towards Maharashtra's all-round growth in the last 60 years. Hence, he is 'Janata Raja'," Awhad added.