Former Prime Minister and veteran BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was conferred with India’s highest civilian honour, ‘Bharat Ratna’ at his New Delhi residence this evening. Departing from protocol, President Pranab Mukherjee personally visited his home to confer the award on the veteran statesman of the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President Dr. Hamid Ansari, Union Minister Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, senior BJP leader LK Advani, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, BJP President Amit Shah, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and other dignitaries were present at the occasion. In addition, Senior Cabinet Ministers Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and BJP Chief Ministers were also present there. Other guests included Yeshwant Sinha, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Murli Manohar Joshi, Mufti Mohd. Sayeed, Dr. Raman Singh, Omar Abdullah etc.
The award ceremony was held at Vajpayee’s residence instead of Rashtrapati Bhavan because of his poor health conditions. Earlier, a notification to confer Bharat Ratna on AB Vajpayee and late Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya, was issued by the President’s Office on December 24, 2014. Vajpayee and Pt. Malviya share the common birthday on December 25. A day before their birthday, the Modi Government had decided to confer the prestigious award on them.
A founder member of BJP, Vajpayee is one of the most charismatic leaders in Indian Politics, who struck an instant chord not only with the masses but also with opposition leaders, a born orator, whose free flowing speeches and extempore statements were admired by friends and opponents alike and a persona which is adored across party lines.
Vajpayee is the first non-Congress Prime Minister who completed a full term. His first term was of 13 days in 1996, followed by a 13 month term starting in 1998. He was at the helm for 5 years from 1999 to 2004. In his illustrious career in politics, he was elected to Lok Sabha nine times apart from being the member of Rajya Sabha twice.
Among others, Vajpayee took initiatives of the historic bus journey to Lahore in 1999 when he signed the landmark Lahore Declaration with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, with both sides pledging to push for peace and security. India’s second nuclear test at Pokhran, in May 1998, also took place during his tenure.
The 89-year-old Vajpayee was born on December 25, 1924 in the erstwhile Gwalior State. He was one of the founder members of erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which he had also headed. He was also the Minister of External Affairs in the cabinet of Morarji Desai.
When Janata government collapsed, Vajpayee restarted the Jana Sangh as the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980 with the help of LK Advani. His birthday, 25 December, has been declared as ‘Good Governance Day’ by Modi government. Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee remains a bachelor.
Bharat Ratna, instituted on 2 January 1954, is the highest civilian award of India. It is conferred “in recognition of exceptional service of the highest order in the field of the arts, literature, science, public services and any field of human endeavour.