BHARAT RATNA for Vajpayee, Malviya

    NEW DELHI (TIP): Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayeeand Madan Mohan Malaviya will be conferred the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, the government announced on December 24 This came on the eve of Vajpayee’s 90th birthday and Malaviya’s 153rd birth anniversary.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior BJP members, including LK Advani, will be present when the Bharat Ratna is presented to Vajpayee at his residence in Delhi as he won’t be able to attend a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan due to ill health, a government official said. The date for this hasn’t been decided.

    Pandit Bhimsen Joshi also received the award at his home, in Pune, in 2009. Modi moved the Bharat Ratna proposal to President Pranab Mukherjee on December 23 evening.

    It was accepted by him on December 24 morning. The government had decided a while ago to give the Bharat Ratna to Vajpayee, said the official cited above. “It was only looking for a fitting occasion and what better than his 90th birthday,” the person said. He said the government was also keen to bestow the honour upon Malaviya as he was considered a Hindu nationalist besides being founder of the Banaras Hindu University in Modi’s constituency, Varanasi.

    “Malaviya’s grandson, Giridhar Malaviya, was a proposer of Modi when he filed nomination papers from Varanasi,” the official said. A Bharat Ratna for Malaviya, who was Congress president in 1909 and 1918, also serves to show that the award is not dictated by political affiliation. PM Modi tweeted: “Atal ji means so much to everyone. A guide, inspiration & giant among giants. His contribution to India is invaluable. Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya is remembered as a phenomenal scholar & freedom fighter who lit the spark of national consciousness among people. Country’s highest honour to these illustrious stalwarts is a fitting recognition of their service to the Nation.”

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    The government steered clear of criticising the previous UPA government for not bestowing the honour on Vajpayee. “The time and occasion is correct for the Bharat Ratna to Vajpayee,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said.

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