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Bharat Ratna for Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Freedom Fighter Madan Mohan Malaviya

NEW DELHI : Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and freedom fighter Madan Mohan Malaviya will be honoured with the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award. "The President has been pleased to award Bharat Ratna to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (posthumously) and to Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee," said a statement from President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recommended the names to the President. Mr Vajpayee, the three-time prime minister considered the gold standard of leadership in the BJP, will be the first leader from the country's political right to be given a Bharat Ratna. "His statesmanship transcended politics," said Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, telling NDTV he was "absolutely delighted" at the news. The announcement comes a day before the birthday of the veteran BJP leader, who turns 90 on Thursday, Christmas Day, being celebrated by the central government as 'good governance day'. 

The decision was taken at a meeting PM Modi held with top BJP leaders including Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah, the party president. Senior BJP leader LK Advani, a long-time political associate of Mr Vajpayee, said he has a "blemish free record and deserves the Bharat Ratna." The BJP, which took power in May, has long demanded the Bharat Ratna for Mr Vajpayee. The party had strongly criticised the previous Congress-led government when cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and eminent scientist CNR Rao were named last year for the award but Mr Vajpayee wasn't. At Mr Vajpayee's hometown in Gwalior, his family was overjoyed. "It is a happy day for his family, the country, the whole world," said his niece Kanti Mishra. 

A Bharat Ratna for Dr Madan Mohan Malaviya, the freedom icon and educationist popularly known as 'Mahamana', was one of the promises made by PM Modi during his the campaign for the national election. The Banaras Hindu University, founded by Dr Malaviya, is in the Prime Minister's constituency Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. 43 people have been honoured till now with the Bharat Ratna, which recognizes "exceptional service or performance of the highest order." The awardees receive a certificate or Sanad signed by the President and a peepal-leaf shaped medallion.

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