New Delhi, February 9: Former prime ministers P V Narasimha Rao and Charan Singh as well as Green Revolution pioneer M S Swaminathan will be conferred the Bharat Ratna, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday. The government had earlier named former Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur, a champion of backward empowerment, and L K Advani, a founding BJP member credited with charting the course of its rise through the 1990s, for the country's highest civilian honour.

At five, one more than the four announced in 1999, this is the maximum number of Bharat Ratnas announced for a year. Making the announcements for Rao, whose liberalisation policies revolutionised the economy, Singh, a champion of farmer causes, and Swaminathan, a globally renowned agricultural scientist, Modi lauded their contributions to the country. PM Narendra Modi Announces Bharat Ratna for Former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh, Hails His Dedication for Farmers.

Singh, a Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh who was prime minister in 1979-80, was one of the pioneers of anti-Congress politics at a time the party was a hegemonic political force. Congress leader Rao, a Telugu, who was prime minister for a full five-year term during 1991-96,,is widely recognised for ushering in economic reforms.

It is our government's fortune that Singh is being honoured with the Bharat Ratna and it is dedicated to his incomparable contributions to the country, Modi said. Be it as an MLA, as Uttar Pradesh chief minister or the country's home minister, he always speeded up the nation-building exercise and also stood strongly against the Emergency, he added. Bharat Ratna to Lal Krishna Advani: Veteran BJP Leader Issues Statement, Says He Accept Country’s Highest Civilian Award With ‘Utmost Humility and Gratitude’.

Then prime minister Indira Gandhi had imposed the Emergency in 1975. Singh's dedication to farmers and commitment to democracy during the Emergency inspires the country, the prime minister said. The honour for Singh comes at a time the RLD, led by his grandson Jayant Singh, is believed to be in talks with the BJP for an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls, expected in April-May. Singh died in 1987.

Paying rich tributes to Rao, who passed away in 2004, Modi said he served the country extensively in various capacities as a distinguished scholar and statesman. He said Rao is equally remembered for the work he did as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, a Union minister and as lawmaker in Parliament and assembly for many years.

"His visionary leadership was instrumental in making India economically advanced, laying a solid foundation for the country's prosperity and growth," Modi said. "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," he added.

Modi said Rao's 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. The Modi government's move to recognise two stalwart politicians who came from non-BJP backgrounds is resonant with political and social messaging. It is expected to boost the BJP's efforts to present itself as a party which represents pan-India interests and aspirations and recognises leading people in different fields.

Rao's admirers have long argued that he has not been given his due by the Congress due to his less than warm relations with the Nehru-Gandhi family, a point often made by BJP leaders too. As the country's first and only full-term prime minister from south India, Rao occupies a special place in the region.

Modi said it is a matter of immense joy that his government is conferring the Bharat Ratna on Swaminathan in recognition of his monumental contributions to the nation in agriculture and farmers' welfare. "He played a pivotal role in helping India achieve self-reliance in agriculture during challenging times and made outstanding efforts towards modernizing Indian agriculture. We also recognise his invaluable work as an innovator and mentor and encouraging learning and research among several students," he said.

Swaminathan's visionary leadership has not only transformed Indian agriculture but also ensured the nation's food security and prosperity, the prime minister said, noting that he knew him closely and always valued his insights and inputs. The agronomist passed away last year. Four of the five awards this year are posthumous. Advani, 96, is the only one alive.