A piquant situation has arisen on the eve of Monday’s investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan to confer the Bharat Ratna posthumously on Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya.
At the root of it is the home ministry going back on its earlier decision to present the award to Saraswati Malaviya, the widow of Pandit Malaviya’s eldest grandson. The ministry had communicated to her in a letter dated March 16 that ‘the President will be pleased to present the Bharat Ratna to you on behalf of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya’.Having arrived from Allahabad in response to the government’s original invite, Saraswati has since been conveyed in writing that the award will be presented to four members of the family of Mahamana — a sobriquet by which the BHU founder is popularly known. What has reportedly upset her is that she figures second in the proposed family line-up after Hem Sharma, the younger sister of Sirdhar, her late husband, who Pandit Malaviya had named as executor of his will in his lifetime.
Asked about the change of stance, a ministry spokesperson said, “Given the prestige of the award, we tried to accommodate other family members as well.”
Those the ministry chose to do the honours include Mahamana’s grandsons Premdhar Malaviya and Girdhar Malaviya, a retired high court judge.
“A medal and a sanad (certificate) in Hindi, signed by the President… will be presented at the ceremony. As Pandit Malaviya was the moving force behind the establishment of the Banaras Hindu University… it is appropriate that the family handover the medal and the sanad to the vice-chancellor, BHU (in) Varanasi to be kept in the university,” the ministry said in its second letter.
The government’s about turn prompted Saraswati’s son Rajeev Malaviya to write to home minister Rajnath Singh.
He demanded to know on his mother’s behalf “the circumstances under which the decision was changed at the last moment without even consulting the wife of the legal heir of Mahamana and a new order was sent two days before the ceremony.”
Rajeev said he had no objection to Hem Sharma and other two family members receiving the award with his mother. “But her position as the senior most surviving member of the family should be recognised,” he wrote.
As per the original invite in which the government offered boarding and lodging facilities from March 28 to 31 to her and two of her guests, Saraswati had asked to be accompanied to the ceremony by her sons Rajeev and Pradeep. But thus far, only Pradeep has an invite. Saraswati had earlier made a representation to the President, claiming the right to receive the award as the widow of the executor of Mahamana’s will. She desired to take the Ratna to Pandit Malaviya’s birthplace before formally handing it over to the BHU V-C.