New Delhi, January 25
Continuing the practice of feting the opposition leaders, the government on Tuesday named former leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha and Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad and former West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya among the 17 Padma Bhushan awardees.
The government had earlier conferred India’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna on late President Pranab Mukherjee (in 2019); Padma Vibhushan on NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and late PA Sangma in 2017; Padma Bhushan on late Assam CM in 2021 and on former Nagaland CM SC Jamir Padma Bhushan in 2020.
Among other non-NDA leaders the NDA government awarded were Congress’ Bhabani Charan Pattanayak from Odisha (Padma Shri in 2018) and former PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig (Padma Bhushan in 2020).
Azad has been selected for the award in the public affairs category. The award comes at a time when the Congress is undergoing a massive churn and Azad, as head of the party’s group of 23 leaders, has demanded course correction from party chief Sonia Gandhi.
PM Narendra Modi had in February 2021 given a teary eyed farewell to Azad when the latter’s term as leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha ended.
The PM saluted Azad for his gesture of support when Gujarati tourists were killed in a grenade attack in Jamp;K in 2006. Azad was Jamp;K CM at the time.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, former Bengal CM, who led the CPM government in the state from 2000 to 2011 was another surprise mention among 17 Padma Bhushan awardees that also included the India-born heads of Microsoft and Google ndash; Satya Nadella and Sunder Pichai.