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There are some who have described the grant of the Bharat Ratna award to former President Pranab Mukherjee as a political gambit by the ruling NDA. Like so many times before, they have said that this represents ‘politicisation’ of the ‘national award’. Do they mean that Mukherjee is not deserving of the award? Then that should be their objection in the first place. If the government favours its own, it is partisan; if it acts in a non-partisan manner, it has ulterior motives! At worst, the critics should be content that the ‘right person has been awarded for the wrong reasons’.
They should focus, instead, on the Bharat Ratna given to Nanaji Deshmukh, for he was the real ‘pracharak’ that is the stuff their nightmares are made of; but before that they could acquaint themselves with the man and his life’s work. Unfortunately, in seeking to draw the lines between the ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’, they reveal that they do not see people as individuals, but as members of communities, castes, creeds and ideologies, and ostracise accordingly. Successful politics demands the ability to at least seem impartial – if it also serves your purpose, all the better! Prime Minister Modi has done exactly that and, in the process, shown up the hypocrisy of the so-called secular liberals. This is evident from the attacks that have been directed at Mukherjee by some politicians who are distant enough from their leaderships to ensure the parties’ plausible deniability.
It is sad that, on Republic Day, which serves as a reminder that the nation belongs to the people and not individuals or monarchs, the attempt to overcome the parochial spirit came under attack. This is why the citizens need daily reminders of the much derided ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’, so that the larger objective of the ‘Idea of India’ remains in the foreground of their consciousness. Those who criticise these efforts the most as unnecessary are the ones who frequently fail in the test by coming up with reactions such as the one on former President Mukherjee. If great things are to be done, all that is necessary to keep the morale high will be required. Otherwise the smallest of challenges will seem too formidable to overcome.