Unnecessary row over Padma Awards

By K N Pandita

This year’s Padma award event has met with an awkward situation. Two things have happened and both have given the nation moments of anxiety. The first is the rejection of the Padma Vibhushan award that the government had announced in favour of the former Chief Minister of West Bengal, Shri Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The second is the row over Ghulam Nabi Azad, the senior Congress leader being nominated as the recipient of the award.

The reasons and the background for the occurrence in each case are different. Bhattacharji, the former chief minister of West Bengal is a committed leftist. The Left ideology, as we all know, does not recognize nationhood. It believes in class conflict. In a sense, it is closer to the Islamic concept of the ummah as opposed to Wataniya. The Indian Left has always considered itself opposed to nationalist parties, ideology and governments.

In India, the Left has been always supportive of Congress firstly for agreeing to the trifurcation of India in 1947 and secondly for Congress’ patronization of the Muslims of India. The Left has been happy with Congress bonhomie because Congress has always carefully worn the mask of secularism and carried forward its dubious agenda under that rubric. This ideology is at the root of the Left hatred for nationalism.

The Indian Left is also fundamentally loath to the majoritarian principle on which democratic structures rest. But democracy becomes palatable if Congress emerges successful at the husting. Buddhadeb had become the chief minister of West Bengal owing to a majority vote he had polled in the assembly but he is not prepared to apply the same yardstick in the case of BJP coming to power at the center.

In the parliamentary elections of 2014 and 2019, the Left met with a humiliating defeat. Hence, a party once considered the kingmaker in India, has been sidelined and rendered ignominious. Naturally, it will keep licking its wounds till a time it hopes to regain the lost status.

The case of eruption of a row on PV award to Ghulam Nabi Azad is to be examined from a different trajectory. Azad has been fanatically devoted to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Whatever he is, he owes it to that house. He has nothing to claim for himself as an original thinker in the Congress hierarchy. Azad never raised finger at the Congress High Command for its undemocratic attitude before the inclusion of Priyanka Gandhi in the active politics of the party. Earlier a time had come when another Congress show boy from Kashmir valley had tried to outsmart Azad in establishing his proximity to the High Command. But Azad managed to steer through the tempest and finally get the rival from Kashmir sidelined and pushed to the Hurriyat bandwagon.

After the episode of 23 senior Congress leaders signing a letter to Sonia Gandhi and asking her to restore democratic practice in the Congress structure, Azad played seek and hide games. He has been smartly moving from end to end and pretending to be working as a balancing factor. It reveals that he is on a slippery wicket and must decide his future realistically.
Looking in retrospect, one is tempted to say that Prime Minister Modi has shown unnecessary zeal in patronizing Azad when he was preparing to lay down the office of the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha. The exchange of modesties between him and the Prime Minister did not add anything to the dignity of the house. People knew that sometimes earlier Azad had sought a one-to-one personal interview with the Prime Minister and at one point in time Rahul Gandhi had made a vague remark that some senior Congressmen were hobnobbing with BJP.

We are not opposed to the government awarding selected citizens of India. We, as responsible citizens, have every right to discuss and evaluate the situations that throw up personalities in national politics. PM Modi is wrong in imagining that activists of Azad’s background will be an asset if they distance from the Congress and demonstrate allegiance to BJP as a major nationalist party. Azad has nothing meritorious about him to entitle him for the award of PV. There have been so many politicians who stood fast to their party line for the entire life span. Many held high office during their political career. These are not very significant and outstanding qualifications.

It is also important that when an active politician is being evaluated for a grant of the award, only the bright side of his contribution should not become the decisive criterion. The dark side of his contribution, which is normally hidden from the sight of ordinary people but open to scrutiny to the members of awarding committee, should also be taken into account. One has to remember that we are to deal with human stuff and not with angels. Nobody is an angel in the realm of politics.

In the final analysis, we very much hope that the prestigious Padma awards reflecting the trust and gratitude of the Indian nation as a whole in a person of outstanding service to any aspect of Indian civilization should be shown the respect these deserve. These awards should be kept away from politics. The two awardees we have discussed would have been honoured in a real sense if their party leaders had conveyed the thanks of the party to the government for bestowing national honour to their party activists. This would have proved that the parties in question want democracy to be strengthened in the country.

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