First political leader to receive India’s highest civilian award
GN Bureau | December 24, 2014
Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and prominent national leader Madan Mohan Malaviya will be honoured with the Bharat Ratna.
The announcement of India's highest civilian award comes a day before the birthday of the veteran BJP leader, who turns 90 on Thursday. A Bharat Ratna for Malaviya, the freedom icon and founder of Banaras Hindu University, was one of the promises made by prime minister Narendra Modi.
A statement from the president’s office said, "The President has been pleased to award Bharat Ratna to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (posthumously) and to Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee." In keeping with the new trend of keeping the virtual world in loop, the president’s office also tweeted the announcement.
#PresidentMukherjee has been pleased to award Bharat Ratna to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (posthumously) and to Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.— President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) December 24, 2014
The Bharat Ratna Award, instituted in 1954, recognises "exceptional service or performance of the highest order." The awardees receive a certificate or Sanad signed by the President and a peepal-leaf shaped medallion, but no cash award. 43 people have been honoured with the Bharat Ratna till now.
The BJP has long demanded the Bharat Ratna for Vajpayee. The party had strongly criticised the previous Congress-led government when cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and eminent scientist CNR Rao were named last year for the award but Vajpayee wasn't.
The three-time prime minister is the first political leader, especially from the political right, to be given a Bharat Ratna. He led the first NDA government as the 11th Prime Minister of India, first for 13 days in 1996 and then from 1998 to 2004.
There is a political consensus on Bharat Ratna for Vajpayee. Bharatiya Janata Party veteran LK Advani had backed Vajpayee's name for the Bharat Ratna calling him a true patriot. He said, "A Bharat Ratna for Atal Bihari Vajpayee should not be seen in terms of a reward for doing his duty but as an award that recognises his stature. It would be very appropriate and befitting for a patriot like Vajpayee."
Outgoing Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah had also backed the demand and said the UPA government should have conferred the country's highest civilian honour on the former prime minister.
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