Who Are The Five Bharat Ratna Awardees This Year

Outlook looks the five significant figures who have been awarded the highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, in 2024.

(Clockwise) PV Narashima Rao, Kapoor Thakur, LK Advani, Charan Singh and MS Swaminathan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the conferring of India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, on former PMs Narashima Rao, Charan Singh, and agronomist MS Swaminath posthumously.  This comes following the posthumous conferment of the award on former Bihar CM Kapoori Thakur and veteran BJP leader and former Home Minister LK Advani. Breaking away from the usual tradition of conferring the honour on three names every year, the recognition has been conferred on five people this time.

Outlook looks at the list of national figures:

P.V. Narashima Rao

A lawyer by profession and a visionary Congress leader, Narashima Rao was the Prime Minister between 1991 and 1996 and the first leader from South India to hold the position. Under Rao, liberalisation and other significant reforms were introduced to the Indian economy, reversing economic policies under Rajiv Gandhi. Manmohan Singh, who was appointed as the Finance Minister under Rao, called him the ‘father of economic reforms in India’. His policies in the wake of globalisation and privatisation are considered to have helped the country from economic collapse. A person of myriad interests and capabilities, his role in solving the economic crisis and completing a full tenure with a minority government have been hailed, having earned the epithet Chanakya for his ability to push important economic and political legislations heading the minority government.

“Narasimha Rao Garu’s tenure as Prime Minister was marked by significant measures that opened India to global markets, fostering a new era of economic development. Furthermore, his contributions to India's foreign policy, language and education sectors underscore his multifaceted legacy as a leader who not only steered India through critical transformations but also enriched its cultural and intellectual heritage," PM Modi said in his announcement.

Chaudhary Charan Singh

Charan Singh, recognised as the ‘champion of Indian peasants’ and a fierce Jat icon, was the fifth Prime Minister of India from 1979 to 1980. A follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent  struggle for independence, Singh became a crusader of the first major land reforms in India after independence. He opposed Nehruvian socialist land policies and founded the Lok Dal in 1980, breaking away from Congress during its Indira era. He also served as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh twice, first in 1967 and then in 1970. 

Modi hailed Singh’s contribution to the country saying, “He had dedicated his entire life to the rights and welfare of farmers. Be it the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh or the Home Minister of the country, and even as an MLA, he always gave impetus to nation-building. He also stood firm against the Emergency. His dedication to our farmer brothers and sisters and his commitment to democracy during the Emergency is inspiring to the entire nation." 

MS Swaminathan

Considered the main architect of the green revolution, Swaminathan, an agronomist and agricultural scientist has been credited for his role in introducing and further developing high-yielding varieties of agricultural produce. leadership and role in introducing and further developing high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice. Swaminathan's efforts spearheaded a mass movement with farmers and other scientists in tandem with public policies, saved India and Pakistan from certain famine-like conditions in the 1960. 999, He was also recognised as one of three Indians, on Time’s  list of the 20 most influential Asian people of the 20th century.

“He played a pivotal role in helping India achieve self-reliance in agriculture during challenging times and made outstanding efforts towards modernising Indian agriculture. We also recognise his invaluable work as an innovator and mentor and encouraging learning and research among several students," PM Modi said.

LK Advani

LK Advani, one of the co-founders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and a member of the right-wing Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS). He is the longest serving Home Minister and served from 1998 to 2004. He is also the longest serving Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The foremost face of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, Advani has been credited for giving the party the necessary momentum. He was also named in the case concerning the demolition of Babri Masjid, but was acquitted in 2020. Advani is considered to be one of the guiding figures and architects of the party, its ideology and its structure.

PM Modi talking about Advani’s contribution to the landscape of Indian politics said, “His is a life that started from working at the grassroots to serving the nation as our Deputy Prime Minister. He distinguished himself as our Home Minister and I&B Minister as well. His Parliamentary interventions have always been exemplary, full of rich insights.Advani Ji’s decades-long service in public life has been marked by an unwavering commitment to transparency and integrity, setting an exemplary standard in political ethics. He has made unparalleled efforts towards furthering national unity and cultural resurgence."

Kapoori Thakur

Known as the Jan Nayak, Kapoori Thakur was the Chief Minister of Bihar over two-terms, first from December 1970 to June 1971 and then from December 1977 to April 1979. He voiced for the rights of the workers and pushed for reservation of  backward classes and led workers' strikes, with a vision to emancipate the downtrodden. He was a mentor and a guide to current leaders in Bihar like Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav.

“I am delighted that the Government of India has decided to confer the Bharat Ratna on the beacon of social justice, the great Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji and that too at a time when we are marking his birth centenary. This prestigious recognition is a testament to his enduring efforts as a champion for the marginalized and a stalwart of equality and empowerment," said Modi following the announcement.