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Bharat Ratna- Isn't the arbitrary selection & politics making this highest civilian award controversy prone?
Recent Controversy on awarding Bharat Ratna to Sachin Tendulkar while ignoring hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand indicates arbitrariness and political opportunism. However if the history of awarded personalities especially political nomination is examined, the dark side of arbitrariness is exposed. The observation is to put light on such arbitrary selections which could have been better avoided and made this award controversy free!

Bharat Ratna, which in English means ?Gem of India? or ?Jewel of India? is the highest civilian award stipulated to confer for performance of highest order in any field of human endeavor as per December 2011 modification by the government of India to included even sports sector.

Original statute was established by the then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad on 2nd January 1954. Then it was stipulated to confer for highest degree of national service and such services includes artistic, literary, scientific achievement and recognition of public service with highest order. During first statute, there was no provision of posthumous award though this provision was added in January 1966 statute.

The salient point of this highest award is, the Bharat Ratna awardees rank seventh in Indian order of precedence. Though this honor doesn?t carry any monetary grant nor confer any pre or post titles. The award is recommended by Prime Minister of India to President of India and a maximum three awards per year can be conferred.

Technically if three awards per year were religiously conferred, then till date there would be around 180 Bharat Ratna awardees. But there was only 41 such awardees since its inception and if we include CNR Rao and Sachin Tendulkar, then the tally goes up to 43. Question is does this country lack such personalities over those years to be eligible for the highest degree of national service or human endeavour?

Many started questioning some of the awardees because of ignorance of some who deserve it more than anybody else. The present Sachin-Dhyanchand controversy is one of them! However if we go to the history of this award we can get more controversies, anomalies and arbitrariness especially in political nominations! Let?s take few of them!

Jawaharlal Nehru got this award in 1955, when he was Prime Minister of India. He definitely deserves such an award, but as a Prime Minister how can he recommend his own name? In fact this incident was more embarrassing when around the same period, Abul Kalam Azad refused the award stating that he was a member of the committee that advise PM on such recommendations. Abul Kalam Azad finally posthumously awarded in 1992 and quite deservingly!

In the case of Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel, it was very insensitive and injustice too. Patel was having same stature as of Nehru but he was awarded in Bharat Ratna only in 1991 along with Rajiv Gandhi and Moraraji Desai after so much of delay! The delay could be attributed to Nehru-Patel bad relations. Isn?t this indicate that selection process for the highest award was and is always arbitrary?

Let?s check further proofs! Indira Gandhi as a Prime Minister recommended her own name for the award like her father did ahead of Patel and Ambedkar! The committee constituted by PM to advice, just followed the dotted line! She herself conferred the award in 1971 and implemented emergency in 1975! A Bharat Ratna awarder simply jeopardized democracy of India when her election was declared void by Supreme Court of India!

BJP is now demanding Bharat Ratna for Atal Behari Vajapaee. When Guljari Nanda, Moraraji Desai, Rajiv Gandi were chosen for the highest award because they were ex-prime ministers, why not Vajapayee then? Even for that case why not Devegouda and Inder Kumar Gujural or Chandra Shekhar? Interestingly P.V. Narashimha Rao who brought economic revolution, V.P. Singh who brought social revolution and Manmohan Singh who ruled for ten years also more deserving in that logic.

Nelson Mandela was conferred Bharat Ratna in 1990. How he can be a Bharat Ratna? What service he had to done to our country? One can understand the case of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan who was frontier Gandhi and disciple of Mahatma Gandhi during our freedom struggle! But isn?t Nelson Mandela?s selection is purely arbitrary?

Most interestingly it was because of non-provision of posthumous awarding, Mahatma Gandhi was not considered for this highest award in 1954. But after addition of this provision in 1966, why Mahatma Gandhi was never considered? Is it because he has no relevance post independence according to successive government of India?

Similarly Subash Chandra Bose was proposed to be awarded Bharat Ratna posthumously during 1992. Because of the mystery around the death of Netaji, Supreme Court of India cancelled the communiqué of posthumously awarding, while adjudicating a PIL. But why Indian government stopped there citing SC verdict. Many of SC verdict?s had been reversed through constitutional amendments!

Point again proves that none was ready to honor the heroes, rather to make arbitrary selections suiting their politics. MGR was the best example who was conferred Bharat Ratna in 1980. He was awarded then on political adjustment and this precedence created demands by TDP to honor N.T. Ramarao, by JDU for Karpuri Thakur, by BSP for Kansi Ram, by BJD for Biju Patnaik & so on!

Thus now we end up with demands for the highest honor! Except some awardees, many are simply arbitrarily chosen & mostly from political sphere & for political interest! In this coalition era, it may so happen that this award would also be a part of bargain along with portfolios by probable allies to the probable lead party of government forming!

Isn?t such arbitrariness diminishing the stature of the award? Recent case is that Dhaynachand  and Viswanathan Anand was ignored to felicitate Sachin Tendulkar only for political gain! Forget about these names, has anyone ever considered the name of Verghese Kurien, the man who brought white revolution through Amul! Doesn?t he deserve it?

Perhaps this was the reason why Jaya Prakash Narayan refused the award during 1977 though posthumously awarded during 1999! Ram Monohar Lohia?s name is yet to catch somebody?s imagination.

Is there any way to end such arbitrariness?

I feel yes, there are many ways. One of best way is to constitute an apolitical committee including honest experts from all fields to short-list the nominations. Then a transparent method should be followed while deciding the final nominations.

Politicians at least should be given least awards and posthumously or post retirement! There must be a minimum age limit also! There must also be provision of withdrawing this highest award. What would be situation when Bharat Ratna awarder is convicted by a court of law?

But will the political class ready to leave this arbitrariness? I don?t think so, because they love themselves and their interest a lot! They don?t care the national interest and even the dignity of the highest national award!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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