The President's Office on Wednesday announced the Bharat Ratna award to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (posthumously) and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The announcement was made on the eve of Mr. Vajpayee's 90th birthday and the 153rd birth anniversary of Pandit Malviya.
The BJP has been demanding Bharat Ratna for Mr. Vajpayee for a long time; and BJP patriarch L.K. Advani has been at the forefront of seeking the highest civilian honour for the former Prime Minister.
Earlier, Mr. Advani had written a letter to the UPA Government to award the Bharat Ratna to the former Prime Minister. The request was however, overlooked by the UPA government, said sources. In 2013, the award was conferred to cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and scientist C.N.R Rao.
>#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
A Bharat Ratna for Pandit Malviya, a freedom fighter and the founder of the Benaras Hindu University was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his election campaign. Justice Giridhar Malviya, the grandson of Pandit Malaviya was one of those who proposed the nomination of Mr. Modi from Varanasi parliamentary constituency. Mr. Vajpayee will be the seventh Prime Minister to receive the award, while Pandit Malviya will be the 12th person to be honoured posthumously.
Earlier recipients of the award include former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Lal Bahadur Shastri, along with first Governor General of free India C. Rajagopalachari, and former Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed delight at the announcement. "Bharat Ratna being conferred on Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya and Atal Bihari Vajpayee is a matter of great delight. Country's highest honour to these illustrious stalwarts is a fitting recognition of their service to the Nation. Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya is remembered as a phenomenal scholar and freedom fighter who lit the spark of national consciousness among people. Atal ji means so much to everyone. A guide, inspiration and giant among giants. His contribution to India is invaluable," the Prime Minister said.
Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya is remembered as a phenomenal scholar & freedom fighter who lit the spark of national consciousness among people.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) >December 24, 2014
Atal ji means so much to everyone.A guide, inspiration & giant among giants. His contribution to India is invaluable >pic.twitter.com/1MYzQbaakO— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) >December 24, 2014
Politicians from across the spectrum welcomed the decision to honour the former PM.
Political leaders hail govt. decision
The Congress on Wednesday welcomed the conferment of Bharat Ratna on Nr. Vajpayee and late educationist Malaviya, saying it hoped that the NDA government will follow the path of ‘Raj Dharma’ and secularism shown by them.
“We welcome the announcement of giving Bharat Ratna to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malviya. To a certain extent, both represent the Indian thought which is secular and tolerant. We hope that this present government will walk in the path shown by these leaders,” Congress general secretary and in charge of Media Communication Ajay Maken told reporters in New Delhi.
Noting that Mr. Vajpayee had talked about ‘Raj Dharma’, Mr. Maken said he hopes that the Narendra Modi government will keep that in mind and follow it.
JD(U) leader and former Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar congratulated Vajpayee and said the UPA government should have conferred the award on the former Prime Minister.
“Atalji’s contribution to the country will always be remembered. I congratulate him. We also wanted Bharat Ratna for Atalji. The UPA government should have given this award to him,” he said.
Describing it as wonderful news, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said his party and its chief Mamata Banerjee have a “very special bond” with Mr. Vajpayee.
“She has worked with him. He has even been to her home to meet her and spent time with Mamatadi at her Kalighat residence and with her mother. They go back a long way. This is very very welcome and its wonderful news that he has got Bharat Ratna,” the Rajya Sabha MP said.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who visited Vajpayee at his residence soon after the announcement, said “I would have come to congratulate Atalji anyways but today we have come to give him double congratulations. We pray that God gives Atalji a long and healthy life.”
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who is also a Bharat Ratna recipient, said he was “absolutely delighted” to get the news.
“I think he deserves to be honoured in every possible way because in many ways he was a very great statesman of the country and one doesn’t have to agree with every bit of his policy to appreciate the human quality that was behind his Prime Ministerial leadership,” he said.
JD(U) president Sharad Yadav also hailed the decision saying, “I am very pleased with this announcement. Malviya had a great role in Indian independence and he established a great institution like Benaras Hindu University. I have been associated with Atalji for many years and even being in BJP he respected the composite culture of India.”
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi too welcomed the decision.“Very happy to know that Bharat Ratna is being conferred on Vajpayee and Malviyaji. Everyone knows Malviyaji was a freedom fighter and an educationist. When Vajpayee was the PM, even if he was in a different party he helped me. I am also personally grateful to him,” Mr. Gogoi said.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar termed it as the “best decision” of the government and expressed happiness over the recognition to Mr. Vajpayee as well as to Malviya.
“Today, we are very happy as Bharat Ratna is being conferred on Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malviya. This is the best decision taken by Narendra Modi and his Cabinet,” Mr. Javadekar said.
(With inputs from Vinay Kumar)