FORMER Prime Ministers P V Narasimha Rao, who is widely recognised for ushering in economic reforms in the 1990s, and Chaudhary Charan Singh, a champion of farmers’ cause, and Green Revolution pioneer Dr M S Swaminathan will be conferred with the Bharat Ratna, it was announced on Friday. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, days after the Centre named former Bihar Chief Minister KarpooriThakur, a champion of backward empowerment, and L K Advani, a founding BJP member credited with charting the course of its rise through the 1990s, for Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour. At five, one more than the four announced in 1999, this is the maximum number of Bharat Ratnas announced for a year.With this, the number of recipients of the prestigious award, instituted in 1954, has risen to 53. Four of the five awards this year are posthumous. Advani, 96, is the only one alive. Prime Minister Modi, who took to microblogging platform X to make the announcement, lauded the contributions made by the three awardees. Later, the Rashtrapati Bhawan in a press communique said the President has been pleased to award Bharat Ratna to the three eminent persons.
Modi said Rao’s visionary leadership was instrumental in making India economically advanced, laying a solid foundation for the country’s prosperity and growth. Rao, a Congress veteran, was Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996. He also said the dedication of Singh to farmers and commitment to democracy during the Emergency inspires the country. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had imposed Emergency in 1975. Singh, a Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh who was Prime Minister in 1979-80, was one of the pioneers of anti-Congress politics. Modi also said it is a matter of immense joy that his Government is conferring the Bharat Ratna on Swaminathan in recognition of his monumental contributions to the nation in agriculture and farmers’ welfare. The honour for Swaminathan comes against the backdrop of protests by farmers in the NCR region and plans for similar stir in the coming days. With national awards often conveying a message beyond the public contributions made by their recipients, the Modi Government’s pick of five of them--three of the four politicians in the list firmly belonging to the non-BJP sphere--for Bharat Ratna in an election year is no exception. Lok Sabha polls are expected to be held in April-May. As the country’s first and only full-term Prime Minister from south India, Rao, a Telugu, occupies a special place in the region. Rao passed away in 2004.
The honour for Charan Singh comes at a time when the RLD, led by his grandson Jayant Chaudhary, is believed to be in talks with the BJP for an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls. Singh died in 1987. Paying rich tributes to Rao, Modi said he served the country extensively in various capacities as a distinguished scholar and statesman. He said Rao is equally remembered for the work he did as the Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh, a Union Minister and as lawmaker in Parliament and Assembly for many years. “His visionary leadership was instrumental in making India economically advanced, laying a solid foundation for the country’s prosperity and growth,” Modi said. “Narasimha Rao Garu’s tenure as Prime Minister was marked by significant measures that opened India to global markets, fostering a new era of economic development.”
Modi said Rao’s contributions to India’s foreign policy, language and education sectors underscore his multifaceted legacy as a leader who not only steered India through critical transformations but also enriched its cultural and intellectual heritage. Referring to Charan Singh, Modi said it is his Government’s fortune that the former premier is being honoured with the Bharat Ratna and that it is dedicated to his incomparable contributions to the country. Be it as an MLA, as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister or the country’s Home Minister, he always speeded up the nation-building exercise and also stood strongly against the Emergency, Modi added. Modi said Swaminathan’s visionary leadership has not only transformed Indian agriculture but also ensured the nation’s food security and prosperity, noting that he knew him closely and always valued his insights and inputs.The agronomist passed away last year. “He played a pivotal role in helping India achieve self-reliance in agriculture during challenging times and made outstanding efforts towards modernizing Indian agriculture. We also recognise his invaluable work as an innovator and mentor and encouraging learning and research among several students,” the Prime Minister said.