New Delhi | Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Saturday that BJP stalwart and former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani will be conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award, and described it as a "very emotional moment for me".
Modi was effusive in his praise of the contribution of the BJP's longest-serving president to public life. First in his posts on X and then at a public meeting in Odisha, Modi hailed Avani as one of the most respected statesmen who challenged dynasty politics and connected India's democracy to "all-inclusive and nationalist ideologies".
Advani (96) greeted journalists at his home from a distance and later said in a statement that the award is not only an honour 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.
He expressed happiness and thanked President Droupadi Murmu and Modi for the award.
Ever since he joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as its volunteer at the age of 14 years, he has sought reward in only one thing, "in dedicated and selfless service of my beloved country in whatever task life assigned to me", he said.
He said what has inspired his life is the motto: "This life is not mine. My life is for my nation."
BJP leaders, including Union ministers and chief ministers, and allies lauded Advani who led his party's full-throttle embrace of the movement to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya and spearheaded the 'Rath Yatra' which transformed politics, especially in north India, forever and fuelled the BJP's rise.
Prime Minister Modi on Saturday said Advani challenged dynasty politics and connected India's democracy to all-inclusive and nationalist ideologies.
Addressing a rally in Odisha's Sambalpur, Modi said the Bharat Ratna to Advani, the former deputy PM, is an honour to the ideology of "nation first".
"Advani continuously fought to get democracy out of one party's grasp and guided everyone. He challenged dynasty politics and connected India's democracy to all-inclusive and nationalist ideologies," he said.
Modi had earlier said on X, "One of the most respected statesmen of our times, his contribution to the development of India is monumental. His is a life that started from working at the grassroots to serving the nation as our Deputy Prime Minister," Modi said on X.
His decades-long service in public life has been marked by an unwavering commitment to transparency and integrity, setting an exemplary standard in political ethics, the prime minister said.
Advani has made unparalleled efforts towards furthering national unity and cultural resurgence, he said.
"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 said.
Modi spoke to Advani, who is credited with crafting the party's rise through the 90s when it came to power for the first time with Atal Bihari Vajpayee heading coalition governments, and congratulated him.
Advani's parliamentary interventions have always been exemplary and full of rich insights, Modi said.
Soon after the prime minister's announcement, a communication from the Rashtrapati Bhavan said the President has been pleased to award the Bharat Ratna to Advani.
Last month, the government had named late Karpoori Thakur, a socialist stalwart and former Bihar chief minister, for the highest honour.
If the recognition for Thakur years after he passed away in 1988 was seen by many political experts as part of the BJP's push to deepen its roots among the economically backward classes (EBC), a category from which he came from, the honour for Advani is being seen as an ode to his instrumental role in shaping the party's core ideology which has come to dominate the country's polity under Modi.
The Bharat Ratna will be bestowed on Advani in a year of the Ram temple's consecration, which marks a triumphant closure for the BJP of an issue which was thrust into popular consciousness by the veteran leader through his 'Ram Rath Yatra' in 1990.
Home Minister Amit Shah said he has been dedicated to serving the country and its people selflessly through his life, adding that he tirelessly works for issues related to the nation, culture and people.
Words cannot describe his contribution to the party and its ideology, Shah said.
Expressing his joy, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Advani symbolised probity, dedication and strong resolve in politics.
In his long public life, the contribution he made in different capacities to the country's development and nation-building is unforgettable and inspiring, he said.
Advani's contemporary and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was bestowed the same honour in 2015.
Those conferred with Bharat Ratna in the past include Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Zakir Hussain, Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Indira Gandhi, K Kamraj, Mother Teresa, Vinoba Bhave, M G Ramachandran, B R Ambedkar, Nelson Mandela, Rajiv Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel, Morarji Desai, Satyajit Ray, A P J Abdul Kalam, Jayprakash Narayan, Aamrtya Sen, Sachin Tendulkar and Pranab Mukherjee.
Advani is the 50th person to receive this.