Right from discouraging VIP culture and VIP syndrome to now ensuring that the top civilian awards are not restricted to an elite few, ever since coming into power Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have shown that his leadership is that of a statesman and not about electoral politics.
Gone are the days when getting a Padma Award was a far fetched dream for the common man. Now the contribution of 'unsung heroes’ to society is recognised leading to the Padma Awards now being called the ‘People’s Padma.’
The 105-year-old Pappammal from Tamil Nadu was awarded the Padma Shri this year for her contribution to organic farming. Chutni Devi, who was once branded as a witch and started a fight against social evils, along with Mithila artist Dulari Devi and Social activist Shanti Devi, from Odisha, are among Padma Shri winners.
A very interesting and unique aspect also involves in the last number of opposition political leaders who has been honoured with the Padma Awards despite being on the opposite side of the fence to the ruling establishment. This of course is in line with the thinking of the Modi government inspired by the prime minister himself. He has often said those who contributed to the great cause of India need to be given the due recognition, politics aside.
Despite having served many key roles in the UPA government — being a union minister and then President of India — it was the Modi government that bestowed the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, on late Pranab Mukherjee in 2019.
In fact, this year, former chief minister of Assam late Tarun Gogoi was conferred with the Padma Bhushan Award. Gogoi served as the Assam chief minister for three terms and was defeated by BJP-led Sarbananda Sonowal government in 2016.
In 2020, four-time chief minister of Nagaland SC Jamir was awarded the Padma Bhushan. Jamir was a legislator in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and also served as Governor.
Another Congressman, Bhabani Charan Patnaik, a three-term Rajya Sabha MP from Odisha and office bearer of the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee was awarded Padma Shri in 2018.
Top Congress leader in the 1990’s Tokheho Sema, who was among the senior most Nagaland politicians, was honoured with Padma Shri in 2016.
In 2017, Sharad Pawar and PA Sangma (posthumous) were awarded the Padma Vibhushan. Both these leaders had a very strong and long political stint with the Congress Party. While Pawar became the Maharashtra chief minister and Union Defence Minister because of his association with the Congress, Sangma went on to become the Lok Sabha speaker.
Except a few years during the end of his public life, Sangma had not worked with the BJP and Pawar’s politics has also been of opposition to the BJP.
Among the non-Congress leaders, former MP from Rajya Sabha Tarlochan Singh has got the Padma Bhushan in 2021. PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig was the deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in a Congress-PDP government. He was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2020.
Among the NDA leaders, Ram Vilas Paswan has been awarded a posthumous Padma Bhushan this year. Akali leaders, Parkash Singh Badal and SS Dhindsa were given the Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan respectively during the tenure of the Modi Government.
In comparison, when the UPA was in power, not a single opposition leader was honoured, Mohan Dharia being the only exception. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2005 and that too for social work after being away from politics for nearly two decades before that.
In a time when politics has become all about bitterness and personal squabbles, Modi’s statesmanship leads by a fine example.