There’s a bit of drama going on for this year’s selection of the country’s highest civilian award. Strangely, only politicians are enacting the drama, which gives the impression that only they are the right claimants for the coveted honor. [Image of Bharat Ratna medal left; image source]
The game was started by LK Advani, who I feel has that gifted over-cleverness of making an issue out of perfect non-issues. He is wily, and when his ‘inner voice’ tells him he can play a masterstroke, he rarely feels the need for his party’s formal nod to do so.
His backing of Jinnah while in Pakistan was an example. Sadly for him, it turned out as a costly mistake. He literally had to fight with his back to the wall to claw back into reckoning.
Now that he has vaulted to the post of PM-in-waiting, he doesn’t seem to want any fly in his carefully nurtured ointment. Which perhaps is why he proposed Vajpayee’s name of his own volition – today’s paper (TT, Jan 18) mentions Susma Swaraj hinting so.
According to me, his calculation is that by proposing the former PM’s name he can forestall any attempt by Vajpayee to claim the post of PM-in-waiting that he feels is rightfully his.
After all, to be considered for the Bharat Ratna is perhaps too lofty for the ex-PM to clamor for the lowly post of PM, should his party come to power 2 years hence.
The second bird Advani proposes to kill with his proposal has 2 mutually exclusive components. One, if per chance Vajpayee is not handed the honor, he can then cry hoarse that the Congress government has no respect for the ex-PM.
Two, if it happens otherwise, that is if Vajpayee is made Bharat Ratna, then again he can cry hoarse that it’s because of him that it has happened.
The later events however are proving embarrassing for Advani. Since he made his demand public, there has been no stopping the demands for the honor. Of all the names proposed, the two worthy ones are Biju Patnaik and Jyoti Basu.
My guess is that despite his cleverness, Advani may not have bargained for so many claimants, thus making the carefully planned game inching slowly out of control.
Not only that, there have been small missiles as well that needed to be ducked. For example, the CPM on Basu’s choice says it never runs after such awards as the Congress and BJP do. Well, that’s a real lofty one.
So now that the Pandora’s Box is firmly open, it will be interesting to see how the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha manages the issue in the days to come.
Meanwhile, if you ask me, I’ll unhesitatingly propose Ratan Tata’s name for Bharat Ratna. It’s mainly because of his effort that the country is going to see an indigenous engineering marvel, the people’s car, by name ‘Nano’.
Ratan Tata has many other singular achievements to his credit, but to me Nano crowns them all. For, when the car becomes a success, it will serve as a glowing example in the revival of interest in basic scientific research, which the country so badly needs.
Late M. G. Ramachandran posthumously in 1988. [Image source]