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Pranab Mukherjee, Bhupen Hazarika, Nanaji Deshmukh awarded Bharat Ratna

At the fag end of its tenure in 2014, the Congress-led UPA had conferred the Bharat Ratna on scientist C N R Rao and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

File photo of former president of India Pranab Mukherjee
File photo of former president of India Pranab Mukherjee

On the eve of the Republic Day, the Rashtrapati Bhavan announced conferring the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, on and Nanaji Deshmukh, both posthumously, and also on former president

This is the second instance of the Narendra Modi government conferring the award during its tenure. It conferred the award on freedom fighter Madan Mohan Malviya and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2015.

The announcement of the awards came close to the LS polls. The BJP has been planning to consolidate its gains in Assam, and improve its performance significantly in West Bengal. While Hazarika is an Assamese icon, Mukherjee — the first Bengali to be the President of India — is considered an icon in Bengal. Hazarika, who passed away in 2011, was a renowned musician, singer and lyricist. He was a legislator of the from from 1967 to 1972, having contested as an independent. The award to Hazarika comes at a time the BJP runs a government in Assam — its first-ever in the state. Hazarika, born in 1926, was conferred with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1987, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1992 and the Padma Vibhushan posthumously in 2012.

Bhupen Hazarika
Bhupen Hazarika
Chandikadas Amrtirao Deshmukh, better known as Nanaji, born in 1916, was a RSS pracharak and a leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the earlier avatar of the BJP. Deshmukh spent most of his political life in Uttar Pradesh. In 1977, he entered the Lok Sabha from Balarampur constituency of UP.

Pranab Mukherjee, 83, served as the country’s president from 2012 to 2017. Born in 1935, Mukherjee had taken care of several ministerial portfolios, including finance, defence and external affairs.

He was the deputy chairman of the erstwhile Planning Commission from 1991 to 1996. He is a two-term Lok Sabha, and five-term Rajya Sabha member. According to his profile on the Lok Sabha website, Mukherjee “was considered the top-ranking minister, and presided over the cabinet meetings in the absence of the Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi) during 1980-1985”.

Nanaji Deshmukh
Nanaji Deshmukh
Last year, Mukherjee had visited the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, and addressed RSS cadres. Many in the Congress party had seen Mukherjee’s actions as a betrayal of the party’s ideology, which they said had always stood against the “divisive agenda” of the RSS. Mukherjee’s son Abhijit is currently a Lok Sabha member from Jangipur in West Bengal, and his daughter Sharmishtha heads the women’s wing of the Delhi unit of the Congress party.

At the fag end of its tenure in 2014, the Congress-led UPA had conferred the on scientist C N R Rao and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.

Pranab Mukherjee, Bhupen Hazarika, Nanaji Deshmukh awarded Bharat Ratna


First Published: Sat, January 26 2019. 01:22 IST
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