NEW DELHI: The central government's decision to confer Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of the country, on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and freedom fighter Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya Wednesday has come in for praise.
Reacting on the government's decision on the issue, union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested President Pranab Mukherjee to give this precious award to these two leaders and he had agreed happily.
"I appreciate this decision and congratulate all people of the country," he told reporters here.
"It's true that we are giving him Bharat Ratna but he is 'Anmol Ratna' (priceless jewel). He is one political leader of India, for whom love of people kept on increasing with the passage of time ... even now when he is not actively involved in anything, his popularity is intact among people," he said adding that Vajpayee was not only popular in India but had lots of admirers in other countries as well.
"We extend our good wishes on his birthday tomorrow. All our ministers would work in their respective constituency on 'swachhta' (cleanliness) and other government schemes," the home minister said.
On whether it was the right time to give Bharat Ratna to Vajpayee, he said: "It was a right decision at the right time."
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been one of the most outstanding prime ministers and political leaders India has ever seen and his being awarded with such a precious award is a good decision.
"Atal-ji has been a very strong nationalist committed to the cause of this country. A complete product of parliamentary system and multi-party democracy, a man who always realised the virtues of consensus, one of the great communicators and somebody who made his presence felt at a national level committed to complete peace in South East Asia. The country today has had the privilege of honouring these two great leaders. We all wish Atal-ji a good health and a very long life," he told reporters.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also expressed happiness over the government's decision to confer Bharat Ratna on the two leaders.
He said he always held the view that those who are the 'ratna' (jewels) of the country, eligible for Bharat Ratna, should be given the honour.
Expressing displeasure over the award being given after a long delay in many cases, the minister said: "Why was Sardar Patel given Bharat Ratna in 1991-92, why not in 1952? Why Ambdekar had to wait till 1990 or much later ... Why Madan Mohan Malaviya had to wait so long? These are the issues; therefore when Indian democracy is maturing, those who are 'ratnas' of the country must be given Bharat Ratna regardless of 'siyasat' or politics and I am very happy that two priceless gems of Indian public life, late Madan Mohan Malaviya and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, have been given the award... we are very happy".
Former deputy prime minister and Vajpayee's contemporary L.K Advani has been quite vocal in demanding Bharat Ratna for Vajpayee.
Speaking to CNN-IBN Sunday, Advani had said that it would be good if the government confers the Bharat Ratna on Vajpayee.
"Bharat Ratna for Atal Bihari Vajpayee should not be seen in terms of a reward for doing his duty but as an award that recognises his stature," he had said.
Advani also expressed satisfaction Wednesday that Vajpayee finally has been given the honour.
The Congress party also welcomed the decision to confer the Bharat Ratna on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the late freedom fighter and educationist Madan Mohan Malaviya.
"We welcome the conferring of Bharat Ratna on Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We congratulate," party general secretary Ajay Maken tweeted after the announcement was made.