Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced the recipients of the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, including former Prime Ministers P V Narasimha Rao and Chaudhary Charan Singh, and Dr M S Swaminathan, the father of the Green Revolution.
These announcements are significant as they coincide with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, indicating strategic political messaging by the ruling party.
Symbolism in Award Choices:
The choice of awardees is laden with political symbolism, aiming to convey specific messages to different segments of society and garner electoral support.
By honoring figures like Charan Singh and Swaminathan, known for their contributions to agriculture, the government seeks to signal its commitment to farmers and rural communities, crucial voting demographics.
Charan Singh’s recognition also holds significance in the context of BJP’s outreach to the Jat community, particularly in states like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
Signaling Political Alliances:
The decision to confer the Bharat Ratna on Charan Singh aligns with BJP’s efforts to strengthen ties with his grandson, Jayant Chaudhary, the leader of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).
Jayant Chaudhary’s positive response to the announcement indicates potential political realignments, with RLD possibly joining hands with the BJP for the upcoming elections.
Messaging to Opponents:
Narasimha Rao’s posthumous recognition serves multiple purposes, including highlighting Congress’s neglect of his contributions and emphasizing BJP’s prioritization of national interests over dynasty politics.
The timing of Rao’s honor, following the Ram Temple consecration in Ayodhya, also serves to address historical controversies, such as his perceived role in the Babri Masjid demolition.
Acknowledging Political Allies:
L K Advani’s Bharat Ratna acknowledges his pivotal role in championing the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, reinforcing BJP’s narrative on Hindutva and temple construction ahead of elections.
Similarly, honoring Karpoori Thakur underscores BJP’s support for backward castes, especially in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where caste dynamics play a crucial role in electoral outcomes.
Strategic Timing of Awards:
The timing of Bharat Ratna announcements, particularly before elections, underscores their strategic nature in shaping political narratives and garnering electoral support.
The Modi government’s astute choices reflect its ability to leverage prestigious awards for political messaging and coalition-building, consolidating its electoral base and broadening its appeal.
Historical Context of Bharat Ratna Awards:
The Modi government’s selection of Bharat Ratna awardees builds upon past precedents, where awards were used for political messaging by various governments.
Previous awardees like Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Pranab Mukherjee also exemplify strategic choices aimed at reinforcing political narratives and historical legacies.
Continuation of Political Legacy:
Nanaji Deshmukh’s posthumous Bharat Ratna aligns with BJP’s ideological lineage, emphasizing continuity and legacy within the party’s organizational structure.
Deshmukh’s contributions to building the BJP’s grassroots network and securing support from diverse segments of society are highlighted as key factors behind his recognition.
Contrast with Previous Governments:
The Modi government’s approach to Bharat Ratna awards contrasts with past governments, particularly Congress administrations, which often conferred honors based on conventional norms and political considerations.
Overall, the Bharat Ratna awards serve as potent tools for political messaging and coalition-building, allowing governments to shape public perceptions, reinforce ideological narratives, and secure electoral gains.
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