Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday wrote a letter to prime minister Narendra Modi, reinstating his demand to confer the country's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna to veteran socialist leader Dr Ram Manohar Lohia.
In a three-page letter, Nitish has also highlighted Lohia's long association with the Goa liberation movement and urged the prime minister to name the Goa airport after the great socialist leader.
"It is my personal request that the proposal regarding conferring Bharat Ratna to Lohia and naming of Goa airport after him should be considered and direction should be given to the concerned ministry for taking necessary steps in this regard," Nitish wrote in the letter.
Earlier in August 2014, when he was working as a senior JD(U) leader after quitting the chief minister's post in favour of Jitan Ram Manjhi, Nitish had strongly pitched for conferring of Bharat Ratna to Lohia and former Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur for their contribution to the country.
"Conferring the highest civilian award of the country on Lohia and Thakur would increase the prestige of the award", Nitish had said. "This will happen only when this award is given to those who have really done great work involving sacrifice and hard work for the country," he had then posted on a social networking site.
In his latest letter, Nitish has drawn Modi's attention towards Lohia's decade-old role in the struggle for Independence, his efforts in bringing together non-Congress parties during the time of Nehru, his model of socialism rooted in Indian realities and his emphasis on issues of public sanitation and women’s upliftment.
"Lohia had gone to the extent of saying that he would give up opposing Nehru if the latter got toilets constructed for rural women. His foresight can be gauged from his emphasis on equipping kitchens with chimneys so that smoke did not spoil women's health. He gave the call for river cleaning, save the Himalayas, world government, etc in the fifth decade of the 20th Century which also prove his foresight," Nitish further wrote.
"In the light of these facts, it would be appropriate that the Government of India confer Bharat Ratna on Lohia, in the honour of his contributions, on his death anniversary on 12 October and also rename the Goa International Airport 'Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Airport'," Nitish said.
Nitish Kumar had earlier hailed the Centre's decision to confer Bharat Ratna on Banaras Hindu University founder and noted freedom fighter Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Later in December 2014, the Bihar legislative council passed a unanimous resolution demanding 'Bharat Ratna' for Lohia, and Bihar's two former chief ministers Shri Krishna Sinha and Karpoori Thakur for "their outstanding contributions in nation building".
Nitish has always claimed to have been highly influenced by Lohia, especially in the field of democracy and social reforms. But rather interestingly, a website called www.lohiavani.com that he inaugurated amidst much fanfare on 7 July, 2012 to promote the ideals of Lohia has long been abandoned and gone dead like a number of other such websites introduced by his government in the past.
Born in Akbarpur, Uttar Pradesh, on 23 March 1910, Lohia’s philosophy spawned a number of parties in northern India such as Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U). He along with Jayaprakash Narayan led a successful movement for Nepal's freedom. After Independence, Lohia continuously agitated against anti-people policies of the central and state governments owing to which he had to go to jail 11 times. He was also instrumental in uniting the Opposition against the Congress and forming the first non-Congress governments in several states in 1967 just before his demise.
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Updated Date: Apr 30, 2018 12:44:08 IST