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New Delhi, December 24, 2014 (PTI) Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and educationist Madan Mohan Malviya were today chosen for the country's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna. The announcement came ahead of Vajpayee's 90th birthday tomorrow. "The President has been pleased to award Bharat Ratna to Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya (posthumously) and to Atal Bihari Vajpayee," a press communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan said. 

One of India's most charismatic leaders, Vajpayee is lauded as a statesman and has been often described as the moderate face of BJP. Vajpayee, who has been ailing for sometime, has been credited for taking bold initiatives, notable being the attempt to bridge Indo-Pak differences. India's longest serving prime minister outside of Congress party, Vajpayee's detractors called him "mask" of the RSS.

Several BJP leaders and MPs, including Murli Manohar Joshi, have demanded that the top honour be awarded to Vajpayee. NDA partner Shiv Sena too



came out in support of conferring Bharat Ratna to the first BJP Prime Minister.

An educationist with a vision, Malviya's main achievement was the establishment of the Banaras Hindu University. Born on December 25, 1861, Malviya was catapulted into the political arena immediately after his first moving speech at the second Congress session held in Kolkata in 1886. He was President of INC in 1909 and 1918. Malviya is also remembered for his stellar role in the Independence movement and his espousal of Hindu nationalism. He was one of the initial leaders of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha.

The recommendation for Bharat Ratna is made by the Prime Minister himself to the President. No formal recommendation for this is necessary.

Last year, when the UPA government had announced Bharat Ratna for former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and scientist CNR Rao, BJP had criticised Congress for ignoring Vajpayee's contribution to the nation. 

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