Belated Bharat Ratnas
Now that there is news about Bharat Ratna to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya ...
Bose was awarded Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1992, which was later withdrawn on a legal technicality, in response to a Supreme Court directive: Government was asked to submit conclusive evidence of Netaji's death—which it could not—on a PIL as to how the award could be posthumous. However, the intriguing point is how come they thought of the award to Netaji only in 1992—even though the amendment to give awards posthumously was made in 1955 itself?
Like for Bose, Bharat Ratna was awarded even to Sardar Patel in 1991 and to Dr Ambedkar in 1990! And, that too because there were non-Dynasty governments since December 1989—VP Singh, then Chandra Shekhar, followed by Narsimha Rao.
Incidentally, Dr BR Ambedkar was declared as “The Greatest Indian after Gandhi” in the Outlook–CNN-IBN–History18 TV Channel–BBC Poll, the results of which were announced on 15 August 2012. Yet, he was given Bharat Ratna only in 1990. In the Poll, while Ambedkar topped with 19,91,734 votes, Nehru, at the bottom at number 10, got just 9,921 votes!
To name a few more, Radhakrishnan was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1954, Rajaji in 1954, Nehru in 1955—when he was himself the PM, Govind Ballabh Pant in1957, BC Roy in 1961, Zakir Hussain in 1963, Indira Gandhi in 1971—when she was herself the PM, VV Giri in 1975, Kamaraj in 1976, Vinoba Bhave in 1983, MGR in 1988, and Rajiv Gandhi in 1991! But, Sardar Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and Dr Ambedkar, being not as great as these worthies (!!), got it later! The Dynasty did not like them!! It has been that personal in our feudal democracy. Of course, the only unjust thing that the Dynasty did was to have left out poor Sanjay Gandhi!
There were those who were more deserving to the many who got. For example, why not to Verghese Kurien of the Amul fame? Narayan Murthy has rightly remarked: “If our country does not stand up and salute Dr Kurien with a Bharat Ratna, then I don’t know who deserves it more.”
That great man from Assam, Gopinath Bordoloi, despite his achievements—far more than most of the Indian leaders, with the added uniqueness that like Sardar Patel, who was instrumental in expanding the Indian territory by about 40% by accession of the Indian Princely States, Bordoloi helped expand India’s geographical boundary to Assam and the Northeast—was not awarded Bharat Ratna by the successive Congress Governments starting from Nehru, while many, not as deserving, got that award. He had opposed Nehru—and for good reason. It was only when a non-Congress government came to power that Bordoloi, a veteran Congressman, was awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1999. That was thanks to Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Non-dynasty greats can wait, may even die, there is no hurry. Posthumously, Ambedkar got it in 1990, Sardar Patel in 1991, Netaji Subhas Bose in 1992 and Bordoloi in 1999, when all the four of them should have been the first to get it in 1954 when the award was introduced.
But, dynasty-scions, great or otherwise, can’t be made to wait: two allowed themselves to be awarded Bharat Ratna when they were themselves in power—Nehru in 1955 and Indira Gandhi in 1971—while Rajiv Gandhi was awarded the same soon after his death in 1991!! When sounded for Bharat Ratna, Maulana Azad declined and told Nehru it was totally improper for those deciding on the awards to pin the medal on themselves! Azad got it posthumously.
There ought to be a provision to withdraw the awards given if it is later found that those awarded did not really deserve it.
Above extracts from “Foundations of Misery, Part-I : India, 1947-1964” by Rajnikant Puranik.
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