Bharat Ratna conferred upon ex-Prez Pranab, Hazarika

Bharat Ratna conferred upon ex-Prez Pranab, Hazarika

Former President Pranab Mukherjee was conferred Bharat Ratna by President Ram Nath Kovind at a special function at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Thursday evening.

Kovind also honoured veteran RSS leader Nanaji Deshmukh and renowned musician Bhupen Hazarika with Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian honour, posthumously.

Mukherjee, Hazarika and Deshmukh were named for the coveted award in January, on the eve of the Republic Day.

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior union ministers, Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, R P N Singh and Shashi Tharoor were among those present at the Rashtrapati Bhawan when the awards were presented.

However, UPA chairperson President Sonia Gandhi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi were conspicuous by their absence.

Virendrajeet Singh, the Director of the Deendayal Research Institute founded by Nanaji Deshmukh in 1968, accepted the award on behalf of the veteran RSS leader who passed away in 2010.

Tej Hazarika, the son of late Bhupen Hazarika, received the award on his father's behalf from the President.

Mukherjee was all smiles as he received the award from his successor Kovind, with whom he also was seen exchanging a few words.

Mukherjee's choice for the Bharat Ratna had surprised many and Modi had cited it as an example that a BJP government does not hesitate in recognising the contribution of political rivals to nation-building.

Mukherjee's visit to the RSS Headquarters in June last year had caused heartburn within the Congress, prompting a section of leaders of his erstwhile party question his commitment to the Gandhi-Nehru ideology.

Mukherjee had told the RSS cadres that the “soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance”, the most clear lesson in Nehruvian ideology.

Deshmukh was one of the founders of Bhartiya Jan Sangh, which later evolved into the BJP. He also worked closely with Jaiprakash Narayan to launch the mass movement against Emergency.

Hazarika was a poet, music composer, singer, actor, journalist, author and filmmaker, all rolled into one. He took the rich folk heritage of Assam and interpreted it beautifully for the world through his songs.

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