BJD demands Bharat Ratna for Biju Patnaik ahead of his birth anniversary - Hindustan Times
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BJD demands Bharat Ratna for Biju Patnaik ahead of his birth anniversary

ByDebabrata Mohanty
Feb 28, 2024 08:09 PM IST

The fresh demand to award Bharat Ratna to former Odisha CM Biju Patnaik comes six days ahead of his birth anniversary, which coincides with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Tuesday made a fresh appeal to Centre to award the country’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna to former Odisha chief minister Biju Patnaik, six days ahead of his birth anniversary, which coincides with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state.

Former Odisha chief minister Biju Patnaik. (File)
Former Odisha chief minister Biju Patnaik. (File)

The demand got momentum after the Centre announced Bharat Ratna for Karpoori Thakur, LK Advani, MS Swaminathan, Choudhury Charan Singh and PV Narasimha Rao.

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“Had Biju Patnaik not flown a DC-3 transport aircraft to Srinagar on October 27, 1947, ferrying soldiers of the Sikh regiment to counter the Pakistan-backed invasion of Jammu and Kashmir, then we may have forgotten Jammu and Kashmir. During World War 2, he flew transport missions to help the British forces fight Japanese forces in Myanmar and dropped leaflets in support of independence and even collaborated with freedom fighters including Jayaprakash Narayan and Aruna Asaf Ali. He will remain not just an inspiration for Odia, but the entire country for his courage and daredevilry. Biju Patnaik surely deserves Bharat Ratna,” said senior BJD leader Prasanna Acharya.

Senior BJD leader AU Singh Deo said Biju Patnaik’s raw courage in flying out former Indonesian Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir and vice president Mohammad Hatta, who were under house arrest in Jakarta by Dutch and British forces in July 1947, was a legendary action. “His daring mission helped focus global attention on Indonesia’s fight for freedom following which Indonesia decorated Biju Patnaik with its highest civilian honour Bhumiputra and Bintang Jasa Uttama. His contribution to the making of modern Odisha would fill several books. The award is already delayed by several years. I urge the Centre to announce Bharat Ratna to Biju. If he is given the award before the birth anniversary, his legion of admirers in the state would feel euphoric,” said Singh Deo, who had raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha in April 2015.

In December 2015, the Odisha Assembly had adopted a resolution seeking Bharat Ratna for Biju Patnaik ahead of his birth centenary year.

“Patnaik was one of the rare breeds of leaders whose field of action was not confined to the state or national territories, but transcended to the international theatre,” wrote then BJP MLA Dilip Ray in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In April 2017, chief minister Naveen Patnaik again reiterated the party’s demand for the country’s highest civilian award for Biju Patnaik.

BJD leaders claimed there is no bar in giving the Bharat Ratna to Biju Patnaik this year, though the Centre has announced five awards this year against the maximum limit of three in a year.

“There should not be any problem if Bharat Ratna award is given to one more person. In which way Biju is less deserving than the other five?” said BJD leader Sashi Bhushan Behera.

Political analyst Rabi Das said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is already popular in Odisha would become more popular among the voters of Odisha with the conferment of the Bharat Ratna to Biju Patnaik. Naveen Patnaik’s stature would go up as he has been demanding it for a long time. More importantly, it may serve as the glue for a possible alliance between the BJP and the BJD ahead of the polls and return of the regional party to the NDA after 15 years.”

“The PM can take such a decision on his own. We would welcome the award,” said a senior BJP leader.

PM Modi will be addressing a public meeting in Odisha’s Jajpur on March 5.

The role Biju Patnaik played during the Chinese aggression of 1962 had impressed Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru so much that he sent him to meet then US President John F. Kennedy to protect the interests of India from the sinister motives of the Chinese aggression.

During his tenure as the chief minister of Odisha, the state witnessed rapid strides in industrialisation and development, including Paradip Expressway, Paradip Port, Balimela Hydro-Electricity Project, MiG factory, Talcher Thermal Power Plant and several technical institutes such as Regional Engineering College (now NIT) Rourkela, Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology, University College of Engineering in Burla and Regional College of Education in Bhubaneswar.

Patnaik introduced UNESCO Kalinga prize for scientists in 1951 to retain the dignity of Kalinga, the ancient name of Odisha. He also set up several industries in Odisha, starting with Kalinga Tubes, Kalinga Iron Works, Kalinga Tiles, Kalinga Refractory and Kalinga Airlines.

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