The government has announced the Bharat Ratna for two of India’s finest stalwarts; Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The honour was announced on the eve of Vajpayee’s 90th birthday and the 153rd birth anniversary of Pandit Malviya. Here is a close look at the life and times of the two great sons of India:
Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya (1861-1946)
The man who popularised the slogan ‘Satyameva Jayate’, was born on 25th December, 1861 in Allahabad. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya or Mahamana, as he was later addressed, was an educationist, scholar, journalist and later a politician, who took active part in India’s freedom movement.
Pandit Malviya was exposed to Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy at an early age and was influenced by his father, who was a known proponent of Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures. His school education and matriculation was from Allahabad and later he completed his B.A. from Calcutta University. He further went on to study Law in Allahabad.
Known for his espousal of Hindu nationalism, he founded the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and served as its Vice Chancellor from 1919-1938. Few would know that he was one of the founding members of ‘Scouting in India’.
Pandit Malviya was also the founder of the popular English Daily, The Leader, which was published from Allahabad. He also served as Chairman of The Hindustan Times, from 1924 to 1946.
His stint in politics saw him serve as the President of the Indian National Congress in 1909 and later in 1918. He was in the forefront of the protest against the Simon Commission and was later arrested for his role in the Civil Disobedience movement.
On the eve of his 153rd birthday, the nation has bestowed on him the title of Bharat Ratna, in recognition of his contribution to the nation and the legacy that he left behind.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Though retired from active politics on account of health, India’s former Prime Minister remains one of the most popular, learned and versatile politicians India has ever seen.
Known for his powerful oratory skills and his ability to build consensus across party lines, Atal Bihari Vajpayee remained one of the most acceptable leaders in over five decades of his parliamentary service. Over the years, he became the moderate face of right wing politics.
Born on 25th December, 1924 in Gwalior, he completed his school and college education from Gwalior and obtained his M.A. in Political Science from DAV College, Kanpur.
He joined the RSS as an activist and was subsequently drawn to right wing politics of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, who founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS). After the death of Mookerjee, Vajpayee took over the leadership of the BJS and went on to widen his base.
1977 saw him merge the Jana Sangh with the Janata Party and serve as India’s External Affairs Minister in the Morarji Desai Cabinet.
He later went on to form the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a founding member and began to develop its base at the grassroots level.
He was elected Prime Minister for three terms, once for 13 days in 1996, the second time from1998 to 1999 and finally served the full five year term from 1999 to 2004.
It was under his stewardship as Prime Minister that India undertook the 2nd Nuclear Test at Pokhran in 1998 to officially confirm India’s nuclear status to the world. It was his sagacity and initiative that saw him undertake the pathbreaking bus journey to Lahore in 1999 in a bid to develop closer relations with Pakistan.
India will remember him for his initiative in undertaking the Golden Quadrilateral Project that connected India through modern highways. His term in office did see several setbacks as well, by way of the Kargil War which was set off by a belligerent Pakistan; the attack on India’s Parliament and the Gujarat riots.
He, however, remained the most acceptable leader amongst politicians and people alike.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee will always be remembered as an affable and easily accessible politician, who matured into a statesman, recognised both in India and overseas. He remained one of the most active politicians in the Parliament and continues to remain an inspirational leader for the BJP, in spite of his poor health.
On the eve of his 90th birthday, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been recognised for his lifetime services to the nation by being chosen for India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna.