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Bharat Ratna for Vajpayee and Malaviya

The government on Wednesday announced the prestigious Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, for former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and freedom fighter Madan Mohan Malaviya.

“The President has been pleased to award Bharat Ratna to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (posthumously) and to Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” a press communiqué from the Rashtrapati Bhavan said.

The announcement comes a day before Vajpayee’s birthday. The central government is also celebrating December 25 as ‘good governance day’.

Several BJP leaders and MPs, including Murli Manohar Joshi and Hema Malini, have in the past demanded that Bharat Ratna be awarded to Vajpayee. NDA partner Shiv Sena too came out in support of conferring Bharat Ratna to the first BJP Prime Minister.

Senior BJP leader LK Advani had earlier told NDTV that Vajpayee has a “blemish free record and deserves the Bharat Ratna.”

Last year, when the UPA government had announced Bharat Ratna for former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and scientist CNR Rao, BJP had criticised Congress for ignoring Vajpayee’s contribution to the nation.

Vajpayee served briefly as Foreign Minister in India’s first coalition government formed under the Janata umbrella in the wake of the Emergency. He returned as Prime Minister of the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, which fell apart in a mere 13 days. In the elections that followed, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies successfully formed a majority government that lasted its full term with Vajpayee at its head. 

He ruled out contesting for a second term as Prime Minister owing largely to health concerns. The BJP, however, failed to retain power in the 2004 elections. 

Malaviya is a noted freedom fighter who was first part of the Indian National Congress — he was president of the party on twice, in 1909 and 1918 — before gradually moving to the right of the ideological spectrum as one of the founding figures of the Hindu Mahasabha. He was also one of India’s leading educationists at the time, and founded the famed Banaras Hindu University. 

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