A day ahead of their birth anniversaries, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the late freedom fighter-educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya were named for India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna.
“The president has been pleased to award Bharat Ratna to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (posthmously) and to Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said.
Incidentally, both Vajpayee and Malaviya were born Dec 25 — the former in 1924 and the latter in 1861. Their birthday has also been declared as “Good Governance Day” by the government.
The honour for Gwalior-born Vajpayee, who was the country’s prime minister first in 1996 and then again from 1998 to 2004, came after years of demands from people across party affiliations and the public at large.
The 90-year-old veteran politician had re-started the Bharatiya Jan Sangh as the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980 and was the first head of government from outside the Congress party to serve a full five-year term.
He served the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, for 10 terms that began in 1957 and concluded in 2009.
An orator par excellence, Vajpayee had earned much fame as India’s external affairs minister in Prime Minister Morarji Desai government during which tenure he delivered a widely acclaimed speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi.
Allahabad-born Malaviya was the president of the Indian National Congress for two terms and was also among the first leaders of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha. Besides being a freedom fighter and politician, he was also an eminent educationist.
The Banaras Hindu University was founded by him in 1916. He died a year before India’s independence Aug 15, 1947.