Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart and former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani will be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, the government said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday, announced the decision to confer the Bharat Ratna on Advani, who led the Ram temple movement. The movement significantly contributed to the BJP’s rise to national prominence but also led to a period of unrest in the 1990s.
“I am very happy to share that Shri LK Advani Ji will be conferred the Bharat Ratna. I also spoke to him and congratulated him on being conferred this honor. One of the most respected statesmen of our times, his contribution to the development of India is monumental,” Modi said, days after the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
“His is a life that started from working at the grassroots to serving the nation as our Deputy Prime Minister. He distinguished himself as our Home Minister and I&B Minister as well. His Parliamentary interventions have always been exemplary, full of rich insights,” the prime minister said.
“Advani Ji’s decades-long service in public life has been marked by an unwavering commitment to transparency and integrity, setting an exemplary standard in political ethics. He has made unparalleled efforts towards furthering national unity and cultural resurgence. The conferring of the Bharat Ratna on him is a very emotional moment for me. I will always consider it my privilege that I got countless opportunities to interact with him and learn from him,” he added.
Advani said that the award is not only an honor for him as a person but also for the ideals and principles that he strove to serve throughout life to the best of his ability.
“With utmost humility and gratitude, I accept the Bharat Ratna that has been conferred on me today,” he said in a statement a day after the official announcement.
The 96-year-old leader, who joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at the age of 14, said he has sought reward in only one thing “in dedicated and selfless service of my beloved country in whatever task life assigned to me.”
“This life is not mine. My life is for my nation,” he said.
Born in Karachi (present-day Pakistan) in 1927, Advani worked as a teacher before the partition. In 1947, as communal riots spread on both sides of the border, Advani moved to Delhi.
Already a member of the RSS, Advani became one of the earliest members of the Jana Sangh, founded by Syama Prasad Mookerjee in 1951. He soon became a close companion of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a rising star in the Jana Sangh.
Advani entered Parliament as a member of Rajya Sabha in 1970, where he served till 1989.
He was elected president of the Jana Sangh in 1972.
Advani first tasted power in 1977 as a minister of information and broadcasting in Morarji Desai’s first non-Congress government.
Together with Vajpayee, Advani was one of the key figures in establishing the BJP in 1980 and driving its ideology as a Hindutva party. He became one of the top BJP leaders to lead the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1990s after he undertook a ‘rath yatra’ from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh to build the Ram temple.
The march triggered riots, especially in towns and cities it passed through. It was stopped in Bihar as Advani was arrested by the state government led by then chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Two years later, on 6 December 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished by a mob allegedly led by Advani, who was acquitted by a Central Bureau of Investigation court in 2020.
Despite the allegations, Advani’s political career continued to soar. In 1998, as the BJP government came to power and Vajpayee became prime minister, Advani was appointed home minister. In 2002, he took over as deputy prime minister.
After Vajpayee retired from active politics following the 2004 defeat, Advani became the tallest figure in the party and served as leader of opposition in parliament. In 2009, the BJP contested the general election with Advani as its prime ministerial face. The party, however, lost again to the incumbent Congress and he stepped down as leader of opposition.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he was replaced by Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial face. Advani contested the election from Gandhinagar in Gujarat as the BJP candidate.
Following the election, Advani, along with other senior leaders of the party, was sidelined to the BJP’s “margdarshak mandal” (guidance committee).
It was also his last election.
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