- Pranab Mukherjee, 83, was president when the BJP came to power
- A lifelong Congressman, he proved to be an epitome of non-partisanship
- Many see political message in Pranab Mukherjee's choice for top award
Pranab Mukherjee, former President, has been awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, along with music legend Bhupen Hazarika and social activist Nanaji Deshmukh. Many believe the choice of Pranab Mukherjee, a lifelong Congressman, for the top award delivers a less-than-subtle political message in election season.
Pranab Mukherjee, 83, was president when the BJP came to power after a spectacular victory in the 2014 national election, ending the Congress-led Government's 10-year rule.
Having been one of the country's most respected parliamentarians, Mr Mukherjee proved to be an exemplar in non-partisanship and enjoyed a good rapport with the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Pranab Da is an outstanding statesman of our times. He has served the nation selflessly and tirelessly for decades, leaving a strong imprint on the nation's growth trajectory. His wisdom and intellect have few parallels. Delighted that he has been conferred the Bharat Ratna," PM Modi tweeted.
The Congress reacted with dismay, however, when in June, a year after exiting the President's post, Mr Mukherjee agreed to address an event of the RSS, the ideological mentor of the BJP.
Mr Mukherjee refused to bow down to Congress pressure to opt out of the event and even used the forum to make a strong statement against communalism.
As Mr Mukherjee's Bharat Ratna was announced on Friday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other leaders congratulated him.
Congratulations to Pranab Da on being awarded the Bharat Ratna!- Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 25, 2019
The Congress Party takes great pride in the fact that the immense contribution to public service & nation building of one of our own, has been recognised & honoured.
Many on social media seized the chance to attack the Congress for failing to give one of its senior-most and most respected members the recognition he deserved.
The former president was a man of his actions and didn't believe in dynasty slavery and i.e the reason why he didn't get recognition. This Govt. cares whoever have done great job to the nation.- Mayur Nayee (@MayurNayee_) January 25, 2019
Pranab Mukherjee is often known as the prime minister India never had. He held charge of top ministries including finance, external affairs and defence.
The veteran was seen to be disappointed when Sonia Gandhi chose Manmohan Singh instead of him as prime minister in 2004.
On Friday, on receiving the award, he tweeted to say: "It is with a deep sense of humility and gratitude to the people of India that I accept this great honour #BharatRatna bestowed upon me. I have always said and I repeat, that I have got more from the people of our great country than I have given to them. #CitizenMukherjee (sic)."
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