Swelling number of Bharat Ratna contenders catch BJP unawares

Written by Mukesh Ranjan | New Delhi, Jan 14 | Updated: Jan 15 2008, 05:28am hrs
Its really a big crowd now, the nominations for a Bharat Ratna. Since senior BJP leader LK Advani suggested that the former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee be awarded with the highest civilian award, many nominees have thrown their hats into the ring.

Making a virtual parody of the nominations, everyone from the Left parties to the SP and the BSP as well as NDA partners and UPA allies have come up with their own recommendations, in the process dragging the BJPs plan to present Vajpayee with a return gift into a needless controversy.

After Advani first made the demand by writing a letter to PM Manmohan Singh on January 5 enumerating a number of qualifying attributes, it was the CPI(M)s Biman Bose who came out with a counter, demanding the award for partys senior most leader and former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu.

Similar demands have followed in quick succession with UPA partners like railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, pitching for the late socialist leader from Bihar and its former CM Karpuri Thakur while steel minister Ramvilas Paswan has favoured late singer Mohammad Rafi.

The two Uttar Pradesh rivals BSP and SP also not lagged behind, with the BSP proposing founder Kanshi Rams name while the SP saying that the award be given to its chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. The icing on the cake, which Advani had attempted to bake, came from one of his NDA partners BJD and its chief minister Navin Patnaik in Orissa, who demanded the same for his father and former chief minister Biju Patnaik.

It now seems that the swelling number of contenders for the Bharat Ratna has caught the BJP leaders unawares, with most now clearly reluctant to talk about the issue. When asked to comment on the issue, official spokesperson Prakash Javedkar said, "We have nothing to say on this."

Although the Congress has maintained a tactical stand, saying that the government will decide, some of its leaders have refused to remain mum. It was pointed out that dalit stalwart late Babu Jagjivan Ram has already been in reckoning for quite some time from now for the award, contending that his daughter and Union minister Miera Kumar has long been lobbying with the government on the matter.