It all started with a curiosity. I was just going through the list of Bharat Ratna awardees where I saw three of the six Nehru-Gandhi family members are in it. Nehru got it in 1955, Indira got it in 1971 and Rajiv got it in 1991. In Home ministry site there is a note which says Bharat Ratna is awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour. The recommendations for Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister himself to the President. Then I checked who the Prime Ministers were in 1955, 1971 and 1991. PMO website claims that Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister in 1955, Indira was in 1971. That naturally leads to these questions?
- Did Jawaharlal Nehru recommend himself for Bharat Ratna in 1955?
- Did Indira Gandhi recommend herself for Bharat Ratna in 1971?
Although the facts above make it obvious, I sent an RTI to PMO India. It took more than two months for PMO to reply this question. And the answers were these. One of my questions was whether it is the Prime Minister himself who make recommendations of Bharat Ratna. They replied it in affirmative. Then I asked them who got Bharat Ratna in 1955 and 1971. They said Nehru and Indira got it respectively. I further asked who recommended Bharat Ratna for Nehru and Indira and what were their achievements? To this question, they said there are no records for this. Since replies to question 2 and 3 leads to the conclusion that Nehru and Indira recommended themselves for Bharat Ratna – I confirmed my doubts. I have sent another RTI yesterday (23rd November), this time to President Secretariat, where I have asked these questions.
- What were the exceptional service/performance of the highest order by Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi for which they were awarded Bharat Ratna?
- What was the exceptional service/performance of the highest order by Rajiv Gandhi for which he was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1991?
- How many politicians are awarded Bharat Ratna of which how many belong to congress party ?
- Which prime minister recommended name of Indira Gandhi in 1971 for Bharat Ratna
- Which prime minister recommended name of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1955 for Bharat Ratna
- What are the procedure/criteria for recognizing exceptional service/performance of Bharat Ratna Awardees?
Jawaharlal Nehru was associated with freedom struggle. Political differences apart, there is no absurdity in awarding him a Bharat Ratna. But what had Indira Gandhi done till 1971 to be awarded with highest civilian award? PMO in their RTI reply claimed that they have no information available on record about the achievements of Nehru and Indira. I just looked at Biography to find out what were the public services by Indira Gandhi till 1971. Wikipedia says –
- Indira was born in 1917.
- In the 1950s, Indira, now Mrs. Indira Gandhi after her marriage, served her father Jawaharlal Nehru (then Prime Minister) unofficially as a personal assistant.
- After her father’s death in 1964 she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
- Indira became Prime Minister in 1966; the Congress was split in two factions.
- Nationalization of Banks
- India Pakistan war in December 1971 (not sure whether recommendations are made before or after 1971 December)
In her public life till 1971, I could not find any single notable achievement by Indira Gandhi. If serving as Prime Minister for a five year term qualifies for the Bharat Ratna award? Then why was not this precedent followed for all the Prime Ministers of India? I am waiting for the reply from President Secretariat which I hope will clear all these ambiguities. Till then we can draw our own conclusions.
1. This DNA article says Indira Gandhi awarded herself Bharat Ratna in 1971
2. Outlook Article which says Indira Gandhi gave herself the Bharat Ratna.
3. TOI Article claims V V Giri bypassed all norms to recommend Indira Gandhi for the Bharat Ratna after the Bangladesh war
4. Ivarta Blog also says Nehru and Indira awarded Bharat Ratna themselves
I am reproducing a critical comment here and my reply to it.
“Excerpts from aforementioned Speech of Dr. rajendra Prasad on July 15th , 1955 after return of Pandit Nehru from the grand Europe trip – “In doing so, for once, I may be said to be acting unconstitutionally, as I am taking this step on my own initiative and without any recommendation or advice from my Prime Minister; but I know that my action will be endorsed most enthusiastically…”
About the contention the author of the blog makes in assuming 5 yr span or 1971 as ridiculously small contributions – he/she has made sure that his/her limits are not just mediocre & indoctrinated sense of curiosity . 1971 carved out a country , gave an insight into what is a just system of treating PoWs , strengthened our positioning against the US bullying – & surprisingly it was also one of the very few moments when the varied confusions around legitimacy , sovereignty ,Human Rights /Religious identities didn’t stop Indira from having the clarity that was needed. AB Vajp. hailed her as Durga after this .
And as in
Nehru’(Indira’)s Case , here too , another gentleman named V V Giri did the lobbying.”
I thank Abhishek Verma (the one who made the above quoted comment) for educating me on this aspect. Presidents of India during 1955 and 1971, i.e. Dr Rajendra Prasad and Sri VV Giri, acting unconstitutionally awarded the then Prime Ministers Nehru and Indira , the Bharat Ratna. What needs to be also noted, very curiously , is that the same Prime ministers, Nehru and Indira recommended the same Presidents (who awarded them Bharat Ratna) for Bharat Ratna in 1962 and 1975 respectively.