The Congress, which is accused by the BJP of disrespecting its own leader PV Narasimha Rao, has welcomed the announcement that the government will confer the Bharat Ratna on the former prime minister – but not without taking a dig at the ruling party.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge praised Rao’s contribution to nation-building and India’s nuclear programme, and also pointed out that the economic reforms were carried out under his government in 1991. Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi and senior party leader P Chidambaram also expressed happiness at the announcement of the Bharat Ratna to Mr Rao, former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh and Dr MS Swaminathan, father of India’s green revolution.
In a post on X, Mr Kharge said, “Former Prime Minister and Former Congress President, Shri P V Narasimha Rao has tremendously contributed to nation building. Under his government, India embarked on a transformative journey with a series of economic reforms that played a pivotal role in shaping the middle class for generations to come.”
On the behalf of Indian National Congress, we welcome the Bharat Ratna being conferred to Shri P V Narasimha Rao, Chaudhary Charan Singh and Dr M S Swaminathan.
1. Former Prime Minister and Former Congress President, Shri P V Narasimha Rao has tremendously contributed to nation…
— Mallikarjun Kharge (@kharge) February 9, 2024
Stating that Mr Rao made significant contributions to India’s Nuclear programme and his tenure was marked by a number of foreign policy achievements, including the ‘Look East’ policy, the Congress chief added, “His vital role in the prosperity and development of our nation shall always be cherished”.
Calling Chaudhary Charan Singh “a son of the soil”, Mr Kharge said he had helped strengthen rural India. He also praised Dr Swaminathan as “an institution builder par excellence”.
“Congress party applauds their vision, their hardwork and the exceptional legacies of these national icons, which the nation has always celebrated,” the Congress president posted.
According to a report by news agency PTI, when she was asked about the Bharat Ratna announcements, specifically for Rao, Sonia Gandhi said, “I welcome them… why not.”
While former Union minister P Chidambaram welcomed the announcement, he also took a dig at the BJP, stating that “it is discovering” the contribution of the three men.
“Happy that secular, socialist leaders have been awarded Bharat Ratna. It is gratifying that the BJP is discovering the contribution of the three eminent men,” Mr Chidambaram posted on X.
Happy that secular, socialist leaders have been awarded Bharat Ratna
It is gratifying that the BJP is discovering the contribution of the three eminent men
It is of no consequence to me that the recognition has come on the eve of general elections.
Homage to the memory of the…
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) February 9, 2024
“It is of no consequence to me that the recognition has come on the eve of general elections. Homage to the memory of the three Bharat Ratna Awardees,” the post said.
Unpacking The Politics
The BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have often accused the Congress of “disrespecting” Narasimha Rao, and the PM has also accused the party of “ignoring” the leader to serve its purpose of glorifying one family.
Mr Chidambaram’s reference to the eve of the general elections is seen as an allusion to comments by some that the BJP is hoping to reap political benefits from awarding the Bharat Ratna to Rao, who was the first person from south India to become prime minister. Rao was from undivided Andhra Pradesh and the southern region is the only part of the country where the BJP is seen as being on the back foot ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.