Two days after cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and noted scientist CNR Rao were named for the country's highest civilian honour, there were also demands that hockey wizard Dhyan Chand, socialist icon Rammanohar Lohia and former Bihar Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur be given the coveted award.  
 
Expressing government's view on the pitch for naming Vajpayee, Union Minister Manish Tewari said, “There is a need to think with ‘seriousness’ on Bharat Ratna when questions like his approach towards Narendra Modi government after the 2002 post-Godhra riots were still hanging in the air."

Leaving aside acrimony with his former NDA ally, Nitish said, "He(Vajpayee) deserves it. Why should not it be given to him?”

Nitish, who served as Railway Minister in the Vajpayee cabinet, said this when asked if he supported Bharat Ratna for the BJP stalwart.

Nitish, who is the driving force of JD(U), also made a strong case for giving the award to Rammanohar Lohia, his ideological guru, and Karpoori Thakur, who was CM of the state in 1977. "Lohiaji should have got it long back."

He, however, distanced himself from Tiwari's comments. "It is a personal opinion of Tiwari ... everybody has an opinion," Nitish said.

Farooq, a leader of Congress ally National Conference, said Vajpayee is bigger than the award itself. "I am not a BJP man but I am an Indian and I think no one can forget that he is a fine leader," he said.

"I must tell you that the first time he talked in Lok Sabha, Jawaharlal (Nehru) jee went to him (Vajpayee) and said one day you will be the Prime Minister of this country. Nehru said this when no one could think that he would be PM one day,” he said.

"I would personally request that such a big personality (Vajpayee), who is bigger than the Bharat Ratna, should be given the due honour and it should be given now itself," he added.

Union Human Resource and Development Minister Pallam Raju said that if country wants, Vajpayee should be bestowed with Bharat Ratna.

(JPN/Agencies)

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