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Nitish demands Bharat Ratna for Vajpayee now

This time, surprisingly, it has come from the BJP’s former allies Janata Dal (United) and the National Conference. Both parties were part of the NDA government headed by Vajpayee between 1998 and 2004.

Two days after the cricket icon and noted scientist CNR Rao were named as the recipients of the country’s highest civilian honour, there were demands that hockey wizard Dhyan Chand, socialist icon Rammanohar Lohia and former Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur be given the coveted award as well.

Leaving aside his differences with his former NDA ally, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said: ‘He (Vajpayee) deserves it. Why should not it be given to him?’ Kumar, who served as railway minister in the Vajpayee cabinet, said this when asked if he supported Bharat Ratna for the BJP stalwart. Kumar also made a strong case for giving the award to Rammanohar Lohia, his ideological guru, and Karpoori Thakur, who was chief minister of the state in 1977. ‘Lohiaji should have got it long back,’ Kumar said in Patna.

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, who is a minister in Manmohan Singh government, said: ‘Vajpayee is bigger than the award itself. I am not a BJP man but I am an Indian and I think no one can forget he is a fine leader. The first time he (Vajpayee) spoke in Lok Sabha, Jawaharlal (Nehru) jee went to him and said one day you will be the prime minister of this country. Nehru said this when no one could think that he would be PM one day.’ Endorsing the demand for the award being accorded to Vajpayee, Abdullah said, ‘He deserves it.’

While Abdullah’s colleagues in government like HRD minister MM Pallam Raju and his junior colleague Shashi Tharoor in their personal comments said that they did not mind the award being conferred on Vajpayee, information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari, who represented the government’s view, had a different take on the matter. ‘Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji had advised a chief minister that he should follow ‘raj dharma.’ But perhaps, he himself had failed to follow ‘raj dharma’ somewhere. ‘Raj dharma’ required that at that time, that particular state government should have been dismissed,’ Tewari said, responding to a reporter’s question in New Delhi.

‘He also regretted this later. In 2004, when he went to Manali, in an interview he said that Gujarat pogrom was a blot on NDA and responsible for its loss in the general elections. So when such questions are still hanging in the air, there is a need to think with seriousness on the Bharat Ratna,’ he added.
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