Bharat Ratna : The Highest Award or Political Gimmick

Last week Government of India awarded the highest civilian honour of country, Bharat Ratna, to Late Pt.Madan Mohan Malaviya and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Just like every year, this year too this award has brought many controversies with it.

Bharat Ratna has been a controversial award from the beginning of it in 1954. The award should be conferred to citizen of any country, “in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order”, without distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex. The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science and public services but the government expanded the criteria to include “any field of human endeavour” in December 2011. Which paved the way to confer this prestigious award to Sachin Tendulkar last year.

Out of many controversies this award has created, we would only look at cases where politics might have played a bigger role in it than worthiness of awardees.

Awarded For Political Gains: Several times awards of the Bharat Ratna have been called “political award” to persons who have not necessarily merited the honour. The following incidences brings out the reality of this criticism into light.

  • It is argued that the decision by Indira Gandhi to posthumously honour K. Kamaraj just before Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 1977 was motivated towards influencing Tamil voters.
  • Similar reason is given for the explanation of then P.M Rajiv Gandhi awarding the Bharat Ratna posthumously to Tamil film actor M. G. Ramachandran prior to the Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 1989.
  • Above argument is also given in case of the Prime Minister V. P. Singh posthumously honouring B. R. Ambedkar to please Dalits. The recent cases of awarding Sachin Tendulkar and Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya are also placed in this category of pleasing the votes before elections.

Self-Awarding Nature:  As the recommendations for Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister of India to the President of India, The then Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi have recommended themselves for the award. This in many people’s views should be stopped. Rather than Prime Minister awarding the Bharat Ratna, it’s been proposed by them that a committee of experts should make are commendation.

Award by Popular Demand: Though, as per the statutes for the Bharat Ratna,the recommendations for the award can only be made by the Prime Minister to the President, there have been several demands from various political parties to honour their leaders. As of now six former Prime Ministers and five former Presidents have got this award. Every time a political leader gets the award all political parties start making their own recommendations for it. Many times the award to non-political figures are considered coming out of popular demand.

Not only political parties but the posthumously nature of award has given an opportunity to so many groups to demand the award for their respective leaders. Even the names of Shivaji and Lord Buddha are being suggested for the award.

This is about time that a serious discussion about the new guidelines to be followed is done. We hope and believe that this award would be treated as the Highest award it is, not some political tool.

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