The awarding of the Bharat Ratna is the apt adieu to Master Blaster Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, who wrote cricket history with his bat for 24 years.
The Bharat Ratna ('Jewel/Gem of India') is the highest civilian award conferred for the highest degree of national service. While hailing the Centre's gesture to honour Tendulkar as a salute to India's cricketing spirit, Indian citizens are wondering why our national game (hockey) was not given the same salute by awarding the Bharat Ratna to Dhyan Chand. The hockey magician won gold medals for India in three successive Olympics Amsterdam (1928), Los Angeles (1932) and Berlin (1936). At the Berlin Olympics, Adolf Hitler was so impressed with his play that he offered to make him a colonel in the German army. Dhyan Chand politely refused as he preferred to serve his motherland.
Similarly, the demand for awarding the Bharat Ratna to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has come up from different political quarters, transcending party barriers. Apart from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), union ministers M Pallam Raju, Farooq Abdullah and Shashi Tharoor, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal and Diwan Sayed Zanual Abedeen of Ajmer Sharif Dargah have supported the demand. It was the Vajpayee government which made India a nuclear-weapon state with effective foreign, defence and infrastructure policy. He converted Indian economy from an economy of shortages to an economy of surpluses, with constant economic growth and low inflation rate.
If Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, is remembered as the 'Builder of modern India', time will recognise Vajpayee as the 'Builder of powerful India'.
Five Prime Ministers, four Presidents
The President awards Bharat Ratna on the Prime Minister's recommendations. The maximum of three awards may be given in a year. Of the 43 awardees, there are five Prime Ministers, namely Nehru (1955), Lal Bahadur Shastri (1966, posthumous), Indira Gandhi (1971), Rajiv Gandhi (1991, posthumous) and Morarji Desai (1991), and four Presidents Dr Rajendra Prasad (1962), Zakir Hussain (1963), VV Giri (1975) and Dr APJ Kalam (1997).
Now the question arises: are those who sacrificed their lives or served Mother India not Bharat Ratnas? The fact is that service to motherland is not subservient to any award. The sacrifices of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Lala Lajpat Rai and thousands of others during the freedom struggle or while serving Bharat Mata are above all awards. If a person becomes the Prime Minister or President or holds any constitutional post, he will be automatically deemed to have been a Bharat Ratna.
Parkash Singh Badal has rightly said that he is deemed to have been awarded the Bharat Ratna by the people of Punjab by becoming the chief minister five times in five decades. Instead of politicising the grant of awards, will it be possible to exclude constitutionally from the Bharat Ratna ambit the recommending and dispersing authority and any person holding a constitutional post for a fair play? But before that, the demand for awarding the Bharat Ratna to Vajpayee and Dhyan Chand must be met.