Reminding Parliament its pledge to confer Bharat Ratna upon Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (Veer Savarkar) as promised in its manifesto for the Maharashtra Assembly election, the BJP government today answered a question in this regard in the Lok Sabha, saying it did not require prodding to remember what it had willed. While the Home Ministry did not say anything explicitly about the award of Bharat Ratna to Veer Savarkar, it made it clear that no recommendation was needed for this.
The ministry said, “Recommendations are often received from different sections for the Bharat Ratna award, but no formal recommendation is required. Decisions are made from time to time on Bharat Ratna.”
Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian honour of the country and every year the prime minister recommends somebody’s name for the award to the president. A maximum of three nominees are awarded every year.
Bharat Ratna was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science and public services, but the government expanded the criteria to include “any field of human endeavour” in December 2011
During the election campaign in Maharashtra, BJP had announced that after coming to power it would recommend Veer Savarkar’s name for Bharat Ratna. However, a BJP government could not be formed in the State because of Shiv Sena suddenly coming up with a 50% power-sharing demand while the party ruling at the Centre said the agreement with the ally was limited to seat-sharing.
The revolutionary Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a pioneer of political Hinduism aka Hindutva, had founded the Hindu Mahasabha. The name of Veer Savarkar in Maharashtra is taken with reverence. Political and social parties, especially those associated with the ideology of Hindutva, have long treated Savarkar as their ideal.
While Savarkar did not have a charitable opinion about the RSS, as his Hindu Mahasabha diminished, with its vestige now hardly on good terms with the BJP, the Sangh Parivar owned or appropriated the legacy. Nationalists in the country and their detractors alike no longer alienate Savarkar from whatever is believed to be the Sangh ideology.
Savarkar’s grandson Ranjit had claimed last Friday that Indira Gandhi was a supporter of Savarkar, too. “Indira brought Pakistan to its knees, strengthened military and diplomatic relations, even conducted nuclear tests,” he said. All these things were contrary to the ideology of Nehru and Gandhi, he added.
Among the freedom fighters who are arguably bigger than the award, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was awarded Bharat Ratna “posthumously” in 1992, only to lead to a furore by his family and supporters who never bought the 18 August 1945 air crash theory. In 1997, by the order of the Supreme Court, the press communiqué announcing the award was withdrawn. That was the only instance when Bharat Ratna was announced by not conferred.