By Rahul Singh
Edited by Namrata Caleb
The highest civilian award of India, Bharat Ratna, has recently been conferred to Mr. Atal bihari Vajpayee (former Prime Minister of India) and to Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya (freedom fighter and founder of BHU).
A statesman, poet, nationalist and staunch believer of world peace, Mr. Atal bihari Vajpayee belongs to the rare breed of politicians with a clean record, despite being actively involved in politics for more than 40 years. An ardent follower of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, young Atal Bihari Vajpayee was among the most active parliamentarians in the Nehruvian era. Be it the improvement of diplomatic ties with USA or the idea of infrastructure development in India, there are numerous examples where Mr. Vajpayee has shown the perspicacity of a well groomed leader. But it is not the list of his achievements that intrigues the writer. It is the strength of his character and the nationalist vibe he spread is what makes him a true Bharat Ratna in the writer’s opinion. In spite of his affiliation with right wing Hindu groups, he maintained his image of an inclusive leader. He never hesitated to call himself a proud Hindu but never under his leadership have the interests of minorities been compromised.
Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, a great educationalist and politician, laid the foundation of one of the top universities of India called Banaras Hindu University. His active participation in independence struggle made him the president of Congress party in 1909. He remained at the post for two years. He later developed an ideological difference with Mahatma Gandhi and formed his own party called Congress Nationalist Party. Mahatma Gandhi treated him as his elder brother and gave him the title ‘Mahamana’. Pandit Malviya was against the idea of separate electorate for minorities and stood by his ideology, giving up the renowned position of a senior leader of Congress party. His ideological differences with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru made him a part of lesser known leaders but his story needs to be told to the present generation.
It is very unfortunate that when it comes to even honouring someone, we entangle ourselves in the net of conspiracies and end up having pointless debates. The Bharat Ratna award is conferred ‘in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order’. It is not a competition among great personalities. It is a recognition and respect given to the personality who qualifies the criteria. It is a fact that as the governments change, their ideological preferences change and so does their choice of personalities for awards. The accusation that BJP government chose Pandit Malviya for Bharat Ratna because he was a supporter of Hindu Mahasabha and opposed the idea of separate electorate for minority might be true, but it should not disparage the contribution made by this great leader to this country. Leaders of Pandit Malviya’s stature should not be victims of trivial ideological wars of today’s politicians.
Perhaps the selection process for Bharat Ratna needs a revolutionary change as a number of times Prime Ministers have nominated themselves for the award. Getting into the filthy debate of ‘who deserves the pie’ is tantamount to showing disrespect for the personalities who have been conferred with this award. It should always be kept in mind that the award is not meant to show any disrespect for the people who are not yet conferred with it. It should be seen as an opportunity for the younger generation to get acquainted with the works of great personalities of this country. Let us show some civility and not reduce the most prestigious award of this country to merely a topic for outrageous political debates.