Pranab Mukherjee, Nanaji Deshmukh, Bhupen Hazarika awarded Bharat Ratna

PM Modi lauds their contributions to nation

January 25, 2019 08:49 pm | Updated January 26, 2019 12:37 am IST - New Delhi

Former President Pranab Mukherjee.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee.

President Ramnath Kovind on Friday conferred the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian honour, on former President Pranab Mukherjee, along with social activist Nanaji Deshmukh (posthumous), and Assamese musician Bhupen Hazarika (posthumous). 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first to congratulate the awardees. “Pranab Da is an outstanding statesman of our times. He has served the nation selflessly and tirelessly for decades, leaving a strong imprint on the nation’s growth trajectory. His wisdom and intellect have few parallels,” he tweeted. 

Of Nanaji Deshmukh, a senior RSS leader who also worked for rural development and welfare of farmers and was considered a stalwart of the Sangh Parivar, the Prime Minister said: “Nanaji Deshmukh’s stellar contribution towards rural development showed the way for a new paradigm of empowering those living in our villages. He personified humility, compassion and service to the downtrodden. He is a Bharat Ratna in the truest sense.” 

He said Bhupen Hazarika popularised India’s musical traditions globally. “The songs and music of Shri Bhupen Hazarika are admired by people across generations. From them radiates the message of justice, harmony and brotherhood.” The awards have political significance, with Nanaji Deshmukh being a nod to the larger ideological family of the BJP. 

Mr. Hazarika’s award appears to be a nod to the importance the North East has been accorded by the current government amid huge unrest following the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill being pushed. Mr. Hazarika had also contested and lost the Lok Sabha poll from Guwahati in 2004, on a BJP ticket. 

Mr. Mukherjee, whom Prime Minister Modi termed as being “like a father” to him has been awarded for public service, but did evoke controversy last year as he addressed the RSS cadre in Nagpur and created a debate on political dialogue.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi lauded Mr. Mukherjee. 

“Congratulations to Pranab Da on being awarded the Bharat Ratna. The Congress Party takes great pride in the fact that the immense contribution to public service & nation building of one of our own, has been recognised & honoured,” he tweeted. He also expressed his happiness that Mr. Hazarika and Mr. Deshmukh had been honoured, posthumously.

Mr. Mukherjee took to Twitter to thank “the people of India” for the award. “It is with a deep sense of humility and gratitude to the people of India that I accept this great honour,” he said. 

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