Speculation was rife on the eve of the Republic Day whether the Bharat Ratna would finally be conferred on one of the nation's sporting icons. And the focus of the debate was naturally on whether the government would confer the highest civilian award on Sachin Tendulkar.
The sports ministry had forwarded the names of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand, Tenzing Norgay, the first man to climb Mount Everest along with Edmund Hillary, and rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra, who became India's first individual Olympic gold-medallist at Beijing in 2008. The ministry said it did not forward Tendulkar's name, as it did not receive any recommendation from the cricket board.
It is entirely up to the Prime Minister's Office on whom it confers the Bharat Ratna. Still, Tendulkar's name was forwarded by the Maharashtra chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, last year after the state assembly passed a unanimous resolution in the wake of the World Cup final triumph.
"The chief minister had sent a proposal recommending Tendulkar's name. The letter was addressed to the Prime Minister and marked to the home ministry that compiles the list of awardees," a senior official in the chief minister's office said.
The Bharat Ratna was last awarded in 2008, to classical music legend Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, seven years after two other virtuosos, Lata Mangeshkar and Ustad Bismillah Khan, were conferred the accolade.