The Government of India has conferred Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, on former president and Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, and posthumously to social activist Nanaji Deshmukh and musical icon Bhupen Hazarika.
Mukherjee took oath on July 25, 2012 as the 13th President of India, crowning a political career that spanned five decades of service to the nation. He has the rare distinction of having served at different times as Foreign, Defence, Commerce and Finance Minister. Mukherjee was elected to the Rajya Sabha five times from 1969, and twice to the Lok Sabha from 2004. He was a member of the Congress Working Committee, the highest policy making body of the party, for 23 years.
Social activist Nanaji played an important role in implementing social restructuring programmes in over 500 villages in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Born in Kadoli in Maharashtra’s Parbhani district on October 11, 1916, Deshmukh was a RSS Pracharak, General Secretary of Bharateeya Jana Sangh, founder member of the Janata Party and one of the senior-most members of the BJP.
He was instrumental in brining all opposition parties agaisnt Indira Gandhi’s corrupt regime under the leadership of Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan, who had given a call for “Total Revolution”, which later led to declaration of internal emergency. He also played crucial role in formation of Janata Party and thus forming the first non-Congress government at the center. When Prime Minister Morarji Desai offered him cabinet berth, he preferred to work for the party.
Having given a call to all politicians to retire from politics at the age of 60 years, so that to give chance for younger generation, he himself withdrawn from political arena at that age and concentrated on rural reconstruciton activities. Founder of Deendayal Research Institute, that played greater role in as a think-tank and also as an instrument for rural development.
Singer, music composer, actor, journalist, music director, lyricist and filmmaker Bhupen Hazarika was born in 1926 in Sadiya, Assam. At the age of 10, he wrote his first song and sang it in the film Joymoti directed by Jyoti Prasad Agarwala. Academically inclined, he had a PhD in Mass Communication from Columbia University, and also received the Lisle Fellowship from Chicago University to study the use of educational project development through cinema.
He leaned towards tribal and balladeer traditions and is often called the Bard of Brahmaputra. Central government last conferred the Bharat Ratna to more than one person in 2015 — to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and posthumously to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya.