BHARAT RATNA: Nation’s top civilian honour for Pranab, Hazarika and Nanaji

NEW DELHI: Former President Pranab Mukherjee, noted singer from Assam the late Bhupen Hazarika and social activist the late Nanaji Deshmukh would be awarded the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna. This was announced on the eve of India’s Republic Day celebrations, by President Ramnath Kovind. 

The 83-year-old Pranab, born in 1935 in Birbhum district in West Bengal and progressed in his career as an economic professor, joined politics and became a parliament member in 1969. He was a confidant of Indira Gandhi, but did not enjoy the same closeness with her son Rajiv Gandhi when he succeeded his mother as PM. There were reports that Pranab being the senior-most member of the cabinet wanted to be PM after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, but the coterie around the Nehru family ensured that the mantle fell on her son Rajiv Gandhi who was then a general secretary of the party. 

Pranab quit the Congress and formed a regional party for a brief period and then returned to the Congress. He as senior minister, who had at various periods held the finance, defence and external affairs portfolios, virtually stood next to Sonia Gandhi in running the affairs of the party as well as the government. He didn’t get his due — PM post — and the honour went instead  to Manmohan Singh. Earlier too, he missed the bus when the PM post went to PV Narasimha Rao. A disgruntled Pranab was finally given the post of Indian President. He had nursed a grudge against the Nehru family on this count.

The RSS started courting him of late. A well-respected leader and one from the Brahmin stock, he had been invited to an event of the RSS last year as chief guest, raising the eyebrows of many,. Now, the Bharat Ratna for him comes not from a Congress government but from the BJP-led Modi government.

The BJP-RSS is aiming to send a message to the Bhadralok in West Bengal that the government cared for a senior leader like Pranab, who is respected across the board by all denizens of West Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee considers him as her very own brother.

BHUPEN HAZARIKA (posthumous honour)

Bhupen Hazarika, who passed away in 2011, was a highly respected Indian playback singer, lyricist, singer, musician, poet and film-maker. He was widely known as Sudhakantha. He is widely known as the Bard of Brahmaputra.He was a prominent presence in the Indian film industry for over 70 years. Hazarika, hailing from Koibrata community, had fought against casteism after he was denied the opportunity to marry a Brahmin woman he had loved. In later years, he, however, married a Brahmin woman and realised his dream in a different way. Hazarika passed away on November 5, 2011.

NANAJI DESHMUKH (posthumous honour)

Chandrikadas Amritdas (Nanaji) Deshmukh from Maharashtra is a prominent activist who worked for the welfare of the rural sector in India. He worked for the cause of the poor in villages by undertaking various projects to ensure a better life for them. he worked to promote education, health and rural self-reliance. He had set up the nation’s first rural university, the Chitrakoot Gramodaya Viswa Vidyalaya, and also the Deendayal Research Institute. He was born in a Maharashtrian Deshastha Brahmin family in Hingoli in 1916. Apart from Maharashtra, his field of activities spread to Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. He was closely associated with some Sangh Parivar outfits as well. He died on February 27, 2010. –IHN-NN


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