The award became the subject of debate over the weekend after the Centre decided to confer the Bharat Ratna on Sachin Tendulkar

The Janata Dal-United and the National Conference — erstwhile allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party–led National Democratic Alliance — have come out in favour of awarding the Bharat Ratna to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (JD-U) and Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah (NC) on Monday voiced their backing for the BJP’s demand.

On Sunday, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad had said in Raipur that Mr. Vajpayee would be conferred the highest civilian honour if his party came back to power.

The award became the subject of debate over the weekend after the Centre decided to confer the Bharat Ratna on Sachin Tendulkar on Saturday, the day the former India batsman bade adieu to international cricket. Several politicians have weighed in on the subject since then. After the BJP leader made out a case for conferring the award on Mr. Vajpayee, the issue was further prised open with Mr. Kumar demanding former Bihar Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur too get the honour.

Mr. Abdullah said: “I am not from the BJP but an Indian and no one can forget Vajtpayee-ji was a great leader. I request the government to finally give Bharat Ratna to him.”

While Mr. Kumar had been part of the Vajpayee Cabinet, Mr. Abdullah’s son, Omar Abdullah, had been a Minister of State in the same government.

Both parties have since parted ways with the BJP. While the JD(U) is keeping its cards close to its chest regarding alliances ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the NC has said it will remain aligned with the Congress.

However, the Congress remained non-committal on Mr. Vajpayee’s claim to the award and criticised the BJP for “politicising” even the conferring of an honour on a cricketing legend. “As a party, we did not demand the Bharat Ratna for him,” said spokesperson Rita Bahuguna Joshi, wondering why the BJP did not consider Mr. Vajpayee for the honour while it was in government.

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