The British were able to consolidate their stranglehold over India with great success by adopting a sinister strategy of ‘divide and rule’ and state patronage. Crafty politicians in independent India have, over the years, taken a cue from the bad old colonial policy.
A grateful LK Advani tells a delighted Atal Bihari Vajpayee that the former’s back has been scratched by the latter’s ‘magnanimous gesture’ of nominating him as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. In gratitude, he would gladly scratch Atalji’s back by suggesting the former PM’s name for Bharat Ratna.
The Congress, ever keen for a post-general elections, pan-India presence, has been left straddling the horns of dilemma. Mayawati wants the nation’s highest award to be conferred to her mentor, the late Kanshi Ram. If the Congress-led present dispensation declines to oblige the UP Chief Minister, it runs the risk of losing favour with her and facing the political consequences that follows.
Other quarters have proposed the names of the late Jagjivan Ram, veteran CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu, 19th century social reformer Jyotiba Phule, and the late legendary singer Mohammad Rafi, among others. It would be naïve — not to mention silly — to admit that the present dispensation, under which the nominating authority functions, will not run afoul with those proposing the candidates if it declines to oblige them. Obliging all of them would most definitely rob the highest national award to civilians of its sterling worth. But worse still, it will set a horrendous precedent. Do sycophants and time-servers need more goodies than they already get?
But another by-product of coalition politics is the need to keep everyone happy. So bet your last school sports trophy that the number of Bharat Ratna awardees will proliferate as the intrinsic worth of the award will be reduced.
When in school, my teacher, in an attempt to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff, started awarding a ‘Well done’ commendation certificate to those who were obedient and methodical. Citizens who have done India proud must be bestowed similar ‘Well done’ certificates instead of Bharat Ratnas. The selection should be done by a committee that is apolitical, dispassionate and one of outstanding talent.