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Bengal and Bhadralok: What the BJP Hopes to Get Out of Bharat Ratna for Pranab Mukherjee

The BJP hopes to make the gesture its trump card in Bengal during upcoming general elections.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:January 26, 2019, 12:40 PM IST
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Bengal and Bhadralok: What the BJP Hopes to Get Out of Bharat Ratna for Pranab Mukherjee
File photo of Pranab Mukherjee and Narendra Modi. (PTI)
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New Delhi: “I don’t know whether I deserve it”. This was former President Pranab Mukherjee’s first reaction when news reached him that successor Ram Nath Kovind had conferred the Bharat Ratna on him.

The congratulatory messages that poured in were enough to settle the doubt in Mukherjee’s mind. The man who spent several decades in politics and is respected across party lines deserves every inch of the honour coming his way.

For the Congress, however, it’s a bitter-sweet moment. For many, Pranab was the man who perhaps was best suited for the prime minister’s chair, but didn’t get the top job as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi chose Dr Manmohan Singh instead. It has been speculated that her decision was motivated by the feeling that she could never trust him completely, and that she wanted someone who would listen. It certainly seemed an awkward moment when Pranab da, as he is fondly known, had to listen to Dr Singh. Sources, however, say that if there was one person Manmohan Singh would listen to in cabinet meetings, it was dada.

Mukherjee himself has never given importance to the fact that he was never chosen to be PM. He just shrugs his shoulders whenever mediapersons try to prod him on that point.

So what’s the message the government is trying to send with the country’s highest civilian honour for Pranab Mukherjee? One, the BJP is sure to make the point someday that Mukherjee best epitomises the ‘Congress culture’ where merit doesn’t find a place. Second, that the Congress never valued him but the BJP did, an argument the saffron party has pushed as far as Sardar Patel is concerned.

Even to nominate Mukherjee for president’s job, Sonia had to buckle under pressure. And despite years of uneasy ties, even Mamata Banerjee could not say no to a fellow Bengali, even though she had earlier decided to support Mulayam Singh Yadav’s choice of Manmohan Singh as president.

The BJP hopes to make this its trump card in Bengal where it wants to make a mark in upcoming elections. By honouring a Bengali with the Bharat Ratna, it hopes to endear itself to the bhadralok. The PM has himself spared no chance to praise Mukherjee and enjoys a good equation with him despite the latter having been a career Congressman.

As for Pranab Mukherjee, he will go back to Rashtrapati Bhavan to receive the award at the same place where he has given away the nation’s most prestigious award himself.

| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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