Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) president and former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Saturday demanded that Bharat Ratna be conferred posthumously on Dalit leader Ramvilas Paswan.
In a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, Manjhi also made a plea to convert Paswan’s 12, Janpath bungalow in New Delhi, where the Lok Janshakti Party founder lived for the past 31 years since 1989, to a memorial.
The demand for according the country’s highest civilian award to the former union minister, who died on Thursday, has also been separately made by his younger brother and LJP Lok Sabha member Pashupati Kumar Paras and Bihar minister and senior BJP leader Prem Kumar. Manjhi, himself a Dalit leader who suspended his all poll-related engagements in Gaya to pay tribute to Paswan in Patna, told reporters that he was demanding Bharat Ratna for Paswan so that future generations could be told about him and his services for the upliftment of the downtrodden. The HAM chief is contesting the Assembly election from Imamganj in Gaya where voting will be held in the first phase on October 28.
He contested the views expressed by some people that Dalits lack administrative capability, and cited names of departed leaders such as Jagjivan Ram, who was deputy prime minister and defence minister in the 1970s, and Ramvilas Paswan in support of his argument.
Manjhi hailed Paswan’s work in particular as a railway minister in 1998 in the United Front government. He was the consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet.
Paras, an LJP MP, has also made a plea for bestowing Bharat Ratna on his elder brother.
Bihar minister and senior BJP leader Prem Kumar also sought Bharat Ratna for Paswan. “I support the demand for conferring Bharat Ratna on Ramvilas Paswan for his works to bring Dalits and those hailing from the deprived sections of the society into the mainstream,” Prem Kumar tweeted.
Ramvilas Paswan had shot to national fame after winning the 1977 Lok Sabha election from Hajipur seat with a record margin of votes on Janata Party ticket. Since then, he represented the seat for eight times.
Born on July 5, 1946 in a poor Dalit family in Saharbanni village of Bihar’s Khagaria district, Paswan had started his political journey with a win in the state Assembly election from Alauli on Samyukta Socialist Party ticket in 1969.