The clamour for country’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee grew as National Conference chief and Union minister Farooq Abdullah and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday supported the demand.
“I am not from the BJP, but an Indian and no one can forget Vajpayee-ji was a great leader. I request the government to finally give Bharat Ratna to him,” Abdullah said.
"He deserves it. Why should not it be given to him?" Kumar, who served as railway minister in the Vajpayee cabinet, said when asked if he supported Bharat Ratna for the former prime minister.
Kumar, who is the driving force of JD(U), also made a strong case for giving the award to Rammanohar Lohia his ideological guru and Karpoori Thakur, who was chief minister of the state in 1977.
The BJP asked the UPA government on Sunday why former Vajpayee wasn’t considered for the Bharat Ratna. “I am raising the issue of not considering former PM for the Bharat Ratna,” said BJP deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Ravishankar Prasad.
“Sardar Patel was a ratna (gem) of the country. He died in 1950 while the Bharat Ratna was conferred on him in 1991. In that period, Jawaharlal Nehru was PM for 17 years, Indira Gandhi for 16 years and Rajiv Gandhi for 5 years. Why was Patel given the award after 41 years?”
“The perspective of the Congress for Bharat Ratna doesn’t go beyond the dynasty,” he added.
The Centre initiated the process to amend the rules to award Bharat Ratna in 2011 to make sports persons eligible for the top civilian honour. After Tendulkar and scientist CNR Rao were awarded the Bharat Ratna on Saturday, the BJP raised the issue of Vajpayee not being considered for the award.
Meanwhile, A Janata Dal-United MP questioned awarding the Bharat Ratna to Tendulkar instead of legendary hockey player Dhyan Chand.
“I fail to understand why Dhyan Chand was ignored and Sachin Tendulkar was given Bharat Ratna,” JD-U's member of Parliament Shivanand Tiwari told media persons.
Tiwari said the ministry concerned had shortlisted the name of Dhyan Chand for giving the Bharat Ratna.
“Dhyan Chand was incredible for having taken hockey to international level for the country when there was no corporate and powerful media. His magic impressed even fascist leaders of Germany who offered him money, comfortable and luxurious life but Dhyan Chand stuck to India,” he said.
“Sachin Tendulkar was not playing free of cost. Sachin has made crores of rupees by helping corporates to market cricket in the country,” Tiwari said.
Tiwari said the Bharat Ratna has lost its importance now.
“It is time for a nationwide debate on Bharat Ratna and to whom it should be given. If latest trend is any indication, then it could be given to any corporate sponsored leader,” Tiwari said.
The Bihar chief minister, however, distanced himself from Tiwari’s statement questioning the award to Sachin Tendulkar.
“It is a personal opinion of Tiwari ... everybody has an opinion,” he said.
“I welcome the Bharat Ratna given to Sachin Tendulkar who served the country through his extraordinary contribution to the game,” Kumar said.