Yoga teacher Ramdev on Sunday weighed in on the controversy over Bharat Ratna awards, pointing out that in the 70 years since Independence, no sadhu has been given any national award despite immense contribution to society by many of them. Asked if he has a grudge against the government in this regard, Ramdev grinned, saying, "I can't say that... I'm simply pointing this out".
The flamboyant saffron-robed yoga teacher, who created the flourishing Patanjali brand and supported the BJP's election campaign in 2014, recently claimed he has distanced himself from politics. Asked if he would campaign for the BJP in the 2019 national elections, he had said, "why would I?"
At the Kumbh mela in Allahabad today, Ramdev said while he had great respect for those who received the Bharat Ratna for their work in nation building, how is it that not a single saffron-robed monk has received the nation's highest civilian award.
"Till now why any sanyasi has not got Bharat Ratna? The contributions of Maharishi Dayananda or Swami Vivekananda towards the nation were no less than any political leader or sports person," he said.
"They have given Mother Teresa this award as she was a Christian, but they will not give to other seers as they are Hindus. It is a crime to be a Hindu in this nation?" Ramdev questioned.
Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
He, however, added that he was not advocating discrimination on basis of religion. "All these saints who have contributed so much, must also be conferred with the Bharat Ratna," he added.
This year, former president Pranab Mukherjee, late singer Bhupen Hazarika, and late social activist Nanaji Deshmukh received the country's highest honour. Many have claimed that the list reflected the political concerns of the ruling BJP, ahead of the national elections, which are due by May.
Various leaders of the BJP have said that the Congress has never made a similar gesture towards anyone not belonging to the Gandhi family. Both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were awarded the Bharat Ratna.
Ramdev's demand comes as several Congress leaders from Karnataka, including former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, asked that the state confer the award on the late seer Shivakumara Swami, who died last week at the age of 111.