Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Honouring the icons


While the contributi­ons of Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur and Lal Krishna Advani to the nation and Indian society are undeniable, the political readings from the conferring of Bharat Ratna to these towering personalit­ies are also obvious. India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, is seen as an embodiment of prestige and recognitio­n. It is conferred upon individual­s for exceptiona­l service in various fields, including art, literature, science, public service, and sports. It is an altogether different thing that the assessment of the “exceptiona­l service” has mostly been guided by the dominant political ideology at the Centre. However, there have been numerous instances when dispensati­ons have defied the ideologica­l-political demarcatio­n to accord due recognitio­n to eminent individual­s across the spectrum.

The list of Bharat Ratna Awardees is replete with political names — Sarvapalli Radhakrish­nan (1954), Jawaharlal Nehru (1955), Lal Bahadur Shastri (1966), Indira Gandhi (1971), Morarji Desai (1991), Rajiv Gandhi (1991) etc. However, the political linkage of Bharat Ratna has become more evident in the Modi regime. A political messaging appears intended in almost each of the Bharat Ratna Awards conferred after Sachin Tendulkar (2014). The Bharat Ratna Awardees after 2014 include: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a remarkable statesman and a BJP leader; Madan Mohan Malviya, an educationi­st and founder of Banaras Hindu University (BHU); Nanaji Deshmukh, an RSS ideologue; Pranab Mukherjee, former president of India; Lal Krishna Advani, one of the most towering BJP politician­s; and Karpoori Thakur, a prominent socialist leader from Bihar who was also known for his anti-Congress stand.

The 2024 Bharat Ratna Awards to Lal Krishna Advani and Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur, in particular, are being seen as a political masterstro­ke aiming to meet the twin objectives of Mandir and Mandal. Advani was the prime architect of the Ram Janmabhoom­i issue. The conferment of Bharat Ratna to him a few days after the consecrati­on of Ram Temple is a timely tribute to the living icon who is in his late 90s. Political analysts argue that Advani and other senior leaders were sidelined as the leadership baton was passed on from the past to present generation of leaders. This argument is partially true, but PM’s heartfelt tribute to LK Advani after the conferment of the award bears testimony to the reverence he enjoys in BJP’s political ranks. The Bharat Ratna Award, in a single go, appears to bridge certain ambiguitie­s that have cast a bleak shadow on Advani’s prominence and relevance within the party, his contributi­ons to his party notwithsta­nding.

At the same time, Bharat Ratna Award to Karpoori Thakur addresses the second aspect of BJP politics — Mandal. The party, off late, has been trying to assert its credential­s in the Backward Classes’ politics. This emerging aspect of BJP politics has been vociferous­ly contested by the INC and other socialist parties. Conferment of Bharat Ratna to Thakur, which was welcomed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and others, is a move that can help BJP strongly assert its Mandal politics credential­s while partially fending off counteratt­acks by opposition parties. To sum up, while the conferring of Bharat Ratna award to LK Advani and Karpoori Thakur is a move that recognises their contributi­ons to Indian society and nation, the political messaging is evidently clear, and can be effective as well. Several other names that have helped take the nation huge strides in multiple spheres await recognitio­n, too!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India