The Bharat Ratna Debate


The Government of India has awarded ace batsman Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar with the Bharat Ratna for his contributions to the game of cricket. (Image: Getty)

Sachin Tendulkar’s glorious career came to a picture perfect end when he was awarded with the much deserving Bharat Ratna. The Master Blaster has to his credit an array of cricketing records which include amassing highest number of runs in both one day internationals and tests and also scoring the highest number of centuries in both the formats of the game. Besides Tendulkar, Southern Scientist CNR Rao was also awarded with India’s highest civilian honour. Prof. Rao currently serves as the Head of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. The octogenarian has to his credit over 1500 research papers and has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates by both national and international universities and institutes.

However, the recently announced awards have generated quite a lot of controversy. Prof. Rao’s Bharat Ratna award was bound to be overshadowed had he not labelled politicians as “idiots” for not sanctioning enough funds for carrying out research. The media took this statement of his very seriously as it provided them with ready-made ammunition to question the credentials of the ace-scientist and add murk to the murky procedure of selecting awardees. Let’s come back to the man of the moment, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

We all know that Sachin truly deserved the award but unfortunately, the award has come at the wrong time for him. Let me reiterate that the Bharat Ratna is bigger than every individual in this nation. Somehow, Bharat Ratna has been made to look miniature in front of Sachin as the timing of this announcement has been purposely made to coincide with the retirement of the man from Mumbai.

It would be childish on our part to forget as to how the UPA Govt. is trying to save its skin and reputation by cashing in on celebrities. It was definitely an image-makeover exercise on the part of UPA when we saw Sachin alongside Rekha being sent to the Rajya Sabha. Similarly, we’re witnessing Sachin besides Rao getting the Bharat Ratna as a result of a hush-hush announcement made by the PMO. With due respect to Sachin, it is quite possible that the Congress led UPA is trying to boost its electoral prospects by means of Sachin.

There are other questions which also need to be answered. We were told some time that the Sports Ministry favoured Dhyan Chand over Sachin Tendulkar. What really happened which catapulted Tendulkar over Chand in the race for Bharat Ratna?

Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP’s Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha kick-started the debate as to why Former India Prime Minister AB Vajpayee has not been awarded the Bharat Ratna. He found support from unexpected quarters as Nitish Kumar, Farooq Abdullah and Pallam Raju echoed similar views. Union I&B Minister Manish Tewari responded by stating that Vajpayee cannot be a recipient of the award since he did not follow “Raj Dharma” during 2002 riots in Gujarat. While defending Tewari’s statement on Arnab Goswami’s The Newshour, part spokesman Sanjay Jha referred to the infamous “Babri ya barabari” statement of Vajpayee to say that he stands disqualified from being awarded the Bharat Ratna. Considering the personal indictment of AB Vajpayee by the Liberhan Commission set up to investigate into the Babri Masjid demolition, which by the way called Vajpayee a “pseudo moderate”, it would certainly be a highly controversial call to honour Vajpayee that too at a time when video recordings of him making provocative speeches on the eve of the Babri Masjid demolition have been published for all to view on the web.

Besides supporting Vajpayee, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar pleaded the Government to bestow the honour on legendary socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia. In the past, BSP Supremo Mayawati had said that her mentor Kanshi Ram deserves the highest honour of the land. PCI Chief and Retd. Justice Markandey Katju has also been asking the Government to honour Urdu Poet Ghalib with the Bharat Ratna. Personally, I don’t think it’s a wise step to give away the Bharat Ratna award “posthumously”. Not because the deceased souls are undeserving but because if we keep dwelling in the past, the living souls’ chance won’t ever come. We’ve had such great men emerging from Indian soil that we won’t get an opportunity to honour anyone except them. Right from Buddha, Mahavir Jain and Guru Nanak to Vikramaditya, Ashoka and Akbar, all would be in line to win the award. It would be chaotic if we went around handing out awards in this manner.

The Bharat Ratna award should be above politics. It’s really a shame that the selection procedure for the same is so shrouded in secrecy that we can’t help but question the decisions made. The government should strive to make the procedure a bit more transparent by at least revealing the names of those who are considered for the award every time it is given and the reasons why the awardees have been chosen over the other contenders.