Country celebrates Atalji’s birthday

  • Controversy over the honour for Malaviya
  • No murmur about Vajpayee
  • Ignoring PV, NTR resented

(K Kaushik)

New Delhi, December 25: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee got the best birth day gift he could ever aspire for when President Pranab Mukherjee gave his nod to the proposal sent by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to confer the highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, on the BJP icon. Vajpayee’s 90th birthday and Malaviya’s 153rd birthday fall on this day. Government has announced that the birthday of Vajpayee would be celebrated as ‘Good governance day’.

There was a dignified silence at the residence of the three-time prime minister in Delhi although many people lined up to greet the ageing leader. Ashok Tandon, a close associate of the former prime minister, said the best time to greet Atalji is the afternoon when he is alert. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited Vajpayee’s residence on Thursday morning.

There is not a single dissenting voice when the award was announced for Atalji. Such has been his personality and the qualities of his mind and heart that not even his enemy would oppose the decision. But questions are heard about denying the same honour to PV Narasimha Rao who was the architect of economic reforms and who saved the situation in Punjab. An intellectual of high order, a bold but cautious leader who made the historic decision to implement economic reforms with human face should also have been treated on par with Vajpayee, many feel.  This question will be asked and heard repeatedly whenever an award was announced to someone other than PV. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana there has been resentment that the claim of NT Rama Rao, founder-president of the TDP and former chief minister, was ignored by the Union Government.

 People in Luknow and Gwarlior, beside Delhi, have celebrated the news with a relish on the birthday of Atalji, the greatest icon the BJP or Jan Sangh ever produced. Vajpayee lived in Lucknow for many years working as an RSS pracharak. He was living in a single-room accommodation along with late Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, former president of Jan Sangh, in Aminabad area of Lucknow while working as a pracharak. Gwalior was the place he represented in Parliament. Later he was elected from Lucknow. He is a national leader who enjoyed popularity across the country but more so in Lucknow and Gwalior.

The poet-statesman who repeatedly recited “Geet nayaa gaataa hoon main” (I will sing a new song) is not in a position to speak cohesively due to old age and health-related problems. He is hardly able to recognise people. But the people of the country have been happily celebrating the news that Atalji along with Madan Mohan Malaviya were conferred with Bharat Ratna.

There has been a controversy, however, over the award being conferred on Malaviya who belonged to the Congress party (He was Congress president) and was also a leader of Hindu Mahasabha whose leader Nathuram Godse emptied three bullets into Mahatma Gandhi on January 31, 1948.

Modi has chosen to award the rightwing political icons deliberately sending clear signal that the future belongs to the BJP and the second generation of economic reforms are round the corner. Moreover, Modi brought BJP back to power after a gap of ten years. Vajpayee had to step down in 2004 after electoral reverses.

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