Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Was it not expected? LK Advani's public demand for conferring the highest civilian award on former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has opened the Pandora's box which , in India, needs only the gentlest of prodding to vomit out its contents!

Indian politicians are adding to the list of claimants by the hour! The motivation, as I had written earlier, has little to do with the exceptional service rendered by the those whose names are being proposed. The overriding criteria is the the number of votes that they can bring for the political leaders who have proposed the names!

BSP founder Kanshi Ram, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister(CM) M Karunanidhi and former West Bengal CM Jyoti Basu now face tough competion, mostly from those who have already left their earthly abode! The only living politician in the ever expanding list of politicians is the former CM of UP, Mulayam Singh Yadav, for reasons not known to anyone!

Will you believe it, even the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar who was taken prisoner by the British more than 150 years ago, is in the fray! The other Muslim whose name has been proposed is the Late Mohammad Rafi, the great playback singer with an inimitably mellifluous voice.

Not to be left behind by Mayawati's demand for awarding the Bharat Ratna to Kanshi Ram, Ram Vilas Paswan has proposed the name of two dalits, Jyotiba Phule and Jagjivan Ram. Orissa wants it for ex-CM Biju Patnaik, father of the present CM while some Biharis want that it should go to another ex-CM Karpoori Thakur. Jats want ex-PM Charan Singh to be honoured and those from eastern UP have proposed the name of ex-PM Chandrashekhar!

Tibetan refugees have been bitten by the bug too! They want, most justifiably, their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to honour India's top award.

In the next few days, don't be surprised if you hear people demanding the Bharat Ratna for Lord Ram, Hanuman, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Kabir, Sri Sri Ravishankar or other holy men, both living and beyond! Anything is possible in India! Of course, almost all the names proposed will be of those who can deliver some votes to politicians whose sole aim seems to be to get to power.

Ironically, in the sixty years that India has seen as a free nation, no business leader has ever been found worthy of being called a Bharat Ratna. There are many shining examples of such leaders who have not allowed the constraints and the obstacles placed by politicians and babus to deflect them from their vision of an India which can actualize its creative material potential and improve the lives of its people, and also make the country proud again. Even now, no one has proposed the name of a Ratan Tata, Dhirubhai Ambani, Lakshmi Mittal, or a Narayanamurthy, to name a few of those who perhaps deserve the honour more than most of the political leaders whose names are being touted.

What this laughable and shameful spectacle is going to do is to ensure that this government, so critically dependent on its allies for its next breath, will not confer the award on anyone at all! Or maybe it will take the other and more politically attractive option of giving Bharat Ratna en masse to all politicians in the fray and hope that this will improve their electoral prospects across the social spectrum! That will be Indian secularism at its best!

Given the sad spectacle of the Bharat Patan we are witnessing for Bharat Ratan, I think it would be best it the award is given collectively to the Common Man of India on this Republic Day and then discontinued. This will not only be a true recognition of the monumental patience and fortitude that the ordinary Indian has shown for sixty years but will also spare the nation of such Patans in future.