Does Late CM of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalitha Really Deserves ‘Bharat Ratna’??

Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award presented by the Republic of India. It was instituted in 1954 and the award is conferred to a person in recognition of exceptional service or performance of the highest order. Earlier, achievements in the area of arts, literature, science and public services were considered, but in 2011, the criteria were expanded to include ‘any field of human endeavour’.

The recommendations for the award are made by the Prime Minister to the President and the President confers this award. There is no monetary grant associated with the award, which confers on the recipient a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a Peepal leaf shaped medallion, which has the image of the Sun and ‘Bharat Ratna’ (written in Devanagari script) on one side, and the State Emblem with the words ‘Satyameva Jayate’ (in Devanagari script) on the other. This award has been conferred on 45 individuals till today, out of which 12 have been bestowed the award posthumously.

At least 24 (including the Frontier Gandhi – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan) of the recipients have been either politicians or freedom fighters. In fact two of our Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru & Indira Gandhi recommended the award to themselves during their tenure as PM. Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa who were born citizens of a nation other than India, were also recipients of the award. Only 4 scientists have received the Bharat Ratna award.

The new Tamil Nadu cabinet, on its first meeting decided to recommend the name of late J Jayalalita, the recently departed Chief Minister of the state, for a Bharat Ratna. The present CM, Mr. Panneerselvam also met PM Modi with the recommendation. While the decision is still pending, what one must ponder over is whether awards given by the country are given solely on the criteria of the recipients’ worthiness, or whether it is a political decision.

Let us see the pros & cons of Jayalalita ji being given this award:

PROs :

  • Her one ruling can be called her best ruling – the system of children needing only Mother’s name to be put in the forms to enter schools or colleges. She later announced that even transgenders can enroll to schools & colleges.
  • The dreaded poacher Veerappan was captured when she was the CM of Tamil Nadu.
  • Formation of Women Police Stations.
  • During Tsunami and Floods, she was the ablest of administrators who saw to it that insurance claims were settled on time and that diseases did not spread.
  • Under her leadership, TN is the 1st ranking state in use of Solar & Wind Power, in Leather, Textiles and Auto industries.
  • A host of populist measures like cradle baby scheme, salt & water being sold at cheap rates, etc. were constituted by her.


  • Cases of disproportionate assets and corruption are still pending against her in the courts.
  • When Income Tax raids were conducted on her, authorities found 800 kgs of Silver, more than 30 kgs of gold, thousands of sarees, hundreds of imported watches apart from luxury cars, unaccounted land & bungalows, in her possession.
  • She ordered the arrests of thousands of State Government Employees and Teachers, during her drive to defeat their trade unions, under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA).
  • She dismissed 1.7 lakh workers under the above & earned the title ‘Iron Lady’. Totally defeated, the 80 odd Union leaders, prostrated before her to beg her for reinstatement of jobs.
  • She unleashed her personal vendetta on the Kanchi Seer, a respected religious head and had Him imprisoned.

The Bharat Ratna should ideally be given to one who has done great service to mankind, science or the country. Giving such prestigious awards for political reasons should be avoided at all costs. J Jayalalita has not done anything which was purely for the betterment of the Nation, stripped of populist measures.

If the government wants to capture the hearts of the people of Tamil Nadu there are better ways to do that. Succumbing to populist pressure will only open the doors to worse types of populism, where on the death of every Chief Minister, his/her political party will agitate for a Bharat Ratna for him/her.

Today if Jayalalita gets the Bharat Ratna, what is there to prevent the award going to the likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav or Mamata Banerjee or even Sonia Gandhi? Some things are for the Nation, above politics. Even if political pressures have been responsible for awards going to the wrong person in the past, there is no need to continue this trend. Let us make a new beginning. Let only truly worthy people get the Bharat Ratna! Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyaan! Jai Hind !!!

Rati Hegde