In a ceremony on August 8, President of India Ram Nath Kovind presented former President and Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee country’s highest civil honour Bharat Ratna.
The award was also presented to RSS leader and founding member of BJP Nanaji Deshmukh (posthumously) and Assamese artist Dr Bhupendra Kumar Hazarika (posthumously). Hazarika’s son Tej Hazarika received the award on behalf of his father, whereas Virendrajeet Singh, Chairman of Deendayal Research Institute, accepted the honour on behalf of Deshmukh.
Mukherjee, 83, became the fifth president to receive Bharat Ratna. Known as the quintessential Man Friday of the Congress, Mukherjee served as the President of India between 2012 and 2017. Before him, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Rajendra Prasad, Zakir Hussain and VV Giri were also awarded nation’s highest civilian honour. Mukherjee became India’s youngest finance minister in 1982 at the age of 47. In the two UPA governments from 2004, he went on to head three crucial ministries, external affairs, defence, and finance and became the first occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to have this distinction.
The government announced the decision to confer the Bharat Ratna upon Mukherjee, Deshmukh and Hazarika in January earlier this year. The award is being conferred after a gap of four years. As President, Pranab Mukherjee awarded Bharat Ratna to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and freedom fighter and Banaras Hindu University founder Madan Mohan Malviya posthumously in 2015.