The modification of the rules of eligibility for the nation’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna—expanding the field of possibilities from art, literature, science and public service to “performance of highest order in any field of human endeavour”—has led to a veritable stampede of potential winners.
hocky hockey legend Dhyan Chand is the politically correct top contendor contender, but quite clearly the hot money is on Sachin Tendulkar, who is widely believed to have lost the race last year because of the constricting criteria. There are others who feel world chess champ Vishwanathan Anand or shooter Abhinav Bindra should get it first.
Not just sportsmen, there are other worthies on the horizon too: the press council chief Justice Markandey Katju was pushing the candidature of Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra a few days ago; today he seems to have zeroed in on the 19th century poet Mirza Ghalib, whose quotes adorn half of Justice Katju’s judgements.
If Ghalib qualifies, who
net next? Tantiya Tope?
Or emperor Ashoka or Akbar?
And why not Kalidasa?
Obviously, the government has put its hand in a beehive by expanding the scope of the Bharat Ratna for populist reasons. Inasmuch as giving the award to a Tendulkar, Anand or Bindra would please the masses, the question really is should one so young be decorated with such an onerous honour?
Is the Bharat Ratna for career acccomplishments or a lifetime of achievements? What if Sachin & Co, fine role models as they are today, become the exact opposite in the rest of their lives? Has the UPA increased the scope for lobbying and politicking by expanding the range?