Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani did no service to Atal Bihari Vajpayee by publicly demanding a Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest honour, for the former prime minister, Congress leaders feel.
Surprisingly, even the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the BJP's ideological mentor, and the BJP's close allies were not enthused by Advani's recommendation.
Advani, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, cited 10 reasons why he thought Vajpayee was worthy of a Bharat Ratna. But criticism followed him.
"Institutions like Bharat Ratna have been sullied but what Advani did is extremely unacceptable," said Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Nilotpal Basu.
Advani's suggestion sparked a deluge of names, all for the Bharat Ratna: from Jyotiba Phule, proposed by Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan, to late singer Mohammad Rafi, former prime minister Charan Singh and socialist veteran Karpoori Thakur.
Not to be left behind, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister proposed the name of her mentor Kanshi Ram while Tamil Nadu's ruling DMK sought the honour for Chief Minister MK Karunanidhi.
And while Advani felt Vajpayee was a worthy candidate, the RSS proposed the name of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.
Congress minister Meira Kumar put up the name of her late father and Dalit icon Jagjivan Ram.
Congress leaders told IANS that Advani had created a "mess" with his public appeal for Vajpayee.
"If he (Advani) was really serious about Vajpayee's recommendation, he should have personally talked to the prime minister instead of writing letters and publicising the issue," Congress leader M Veerapa Moily told IANS.
Congress general secretary Margaret Alva added: "This has only created unnecessary embarrassment for Vajpayee. I feel that in the first instance the request should not have been made in the form of a letter."
The BJP, however, feels that Vajpayee, the first non-Congress prime minister to rule India for five years, deserves a Bharat Ratna.
"Advani reminded the government that Atalji deserved it. The government should take it as a positive thing and not play politics over it," BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
Asked about the lack of unanimity within the Sangh Parivar, Naqvi said: "The RSS and the Sangh have a right to have their own views on the issue."
No BJP ally backed the party.
The Shiromani Akali Dal has come up with the name of its leader and Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal for Bharat Ratna. The Janata Dal (Biju) recommended the name of Biju Patnaik.
The CPI-M's Nilotpal Basu added: "Advani has been too long in politics to know (better). There are procedures to be followed in such matters."
Veteran CPI-M leader and former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu's name was also considered for the Bharat Ratna. But he said he was not interested.