As the clamour for Bharat Ratna for former PM and five-time Lucknow MP Atal Bihari Vajpayee grows ahead of his 90th birthday on December 25, those close to stalwart hardly seem interested in joining the chorus.
Their logic: ‘Vajpayee doesn’t need the award, it’s the award that needs association with a person of Vajpayee’s stature.’
“The value of Bharat Ratna would go up if Vajpayee’s name is associated with the award. As for Vajpayeeji, he is a gem (ratna) already,” says Shiv Kumar, Vajpayee aide for years, on phone from Delhi. Vajpayee served as the tenth Prime Minister of India, thrice - first for 13 days in 1996, and then for two terms from 1998 to 2004.
Interestingly, union home minister Rajnath Singh, who now represents Vajpayee’s Lucknow constituency had made near identical remarks on Vajpayee’s last birthday. As the then BJP chief, Singh had said, “Vajpayee doesn’t need a Bharat Ratna for he is a gem already.” Rajnath is expected to be in Lucknow on Vajpayee’s birthday this time amid heightened buzz that the former PM’s name could well figure among the list of recipients of the coveted award this time.
Lucknow mayor and BJP’s national vice president Dinesh Sharma, who had served as Vajpayee’s election officer, says he is amused at the demands to bestow the ‘Bharat Ratna’ on Vajpayee. “I feel the word ‘maang’ (demand) for an award for Vajpayeeji is too small for the great leader who has left an indelible impact on national politics. If the award is bestowed on him, we all would be happy but leaders like him are above such awards anyway.”
There are many in the BJP like Shailendra Sharma ‘Atal’ - who was so impressed by Vajpayee’s oratory that he started talking like him – who feel that the Congress led UPA II government should have honored Vajpayee. “Vajpayee’s appeal cut across party lines. The Congress would have won hearts if its leadership had thought of honoring Vajpayee,” he says.
Meanwhile, the demand both within the BJP and outside is peaking.