National

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Madan Mohan Malaviya to get Bharat Ratna

New Delhi, Dec 24: The government will confer the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and freedom fighter Madan Mohan Malaviya for their contribution to the country.

President of India Pranab Mukherjee confirmed the decision in a tweet, saying, "#PresidentMukherjee has been pleased to award Bharat Ratna to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (posthumously) and to Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee".

The formal announcement came a day before the birth anniversary of both the veterans Malaviya and Vajpayee, who will turn 90 on Dec 25, on Christmas, which will be observed by the central government as Good Governance Day tomorrow.

The government had already decided to confer the prestigious award to two veterans, and recommended the names to President Pranab Mukherjee. The decision was taken at a meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi held with top BJP leaders including Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah, the party president.

The BJP had been demanding the Bharat Ratna for Mr Vajpayee for the last five years. The party had strongly criticised the previous Congress-led government when cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and eminent scientist CNR Rao were named for the award.

A Bharat Ratna for Dr Madan Mohan Malaviya, the freedom fighter and educationist popularly known as "Mahamana", was one of the promises made by PM Modi during his the campaign for the national election.

Malaviya, the founder of the Banaras Hindu University, the largest residential university in Asia and one of the largest in the world, was one of the initial leaders of the far-right party Hindu Mahasabha. He was the President of the Indian National Congress on two occasions (1909 and 1918). He also founded a highly influential, English-newspaper, The Leader published from Allahabad in 1909.

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