Former Bihar CM and socialist icon Karpoori Thakur awarded Bharat Ratna posthumously

'Jan Nayak' Karpoori Thakur served as the Chief Minister of Bihar twice - from December 1970 to June 1971 and from December 1977 to April 1979.

Socialist icon and two-time chief minister of Bihar Karpoori Thakur will be conferred the country’s highest honour, Bharat Ratna, 35 years after his death.

Dubbed as “Jan Nayak”, Karpoori Thakur served as the Chief Minister of Bihar twice – from December 1970 to June 1971 and from December 1977 to April 1979. He is known for his initiatives towards uplifting the backward castes and marginalised communities.

Karpoori Thakur was the pioneer in providing the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) with the benefit of reservation as he implemented the recommendations of the Mungeri Lal Commission during his tenure as Bihar CM from 1977 to 1979.

“The President has been pleased to award Bharat Ratna to Shri Karpoori Thakur (posthumously),” a one-line release from Rashtrapati Bhavan said on January 23. The announcement of the Bharat Ratna award for him comes ahead of his 100th birth anniversary on January 24.

“I am delighted that the Government of India has decided to confer the Bharat Ratna on the beacon of social justice, the great Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji and that too at a time when we are marking his birth centenary. This prestigious recognition is a testament to his enduring efforts as a champion for the marginalized and a stalwart of equality and empowerment,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on social media platform X.

His unwavering commitment to uplift the downtrodden and his visionary leadership have left an indelible mark on India’s socio-political fabric. This award not only honours his remarkable contributions but also inspires us to continue his mission of creating a more just and equitable society, the prime minister added.

Hailing from a small village in Bihar’s Samstipur district, Thakur was a freedom fighter and had been imprisoned for his participation in the Quit India Movement against the British in 1924.

In 1952, Thakur became a legislator for the first time and his election-winning spree at the state-level continued till 1985. Fondly known as ‘Jan Nayak’, he served as Bihar’s chief minister twice – in 1970 ( with the Samyuktha Socialist Party) and 1977 (with the Janata Party), according to a report by The Indian Express.

As CM, Thakur is said to have introduced various policies aimed at promoting the Hindi language, waiving school fees, and strengthening the Panchayati Raj system.

Under his governance, a 12 percent quota was allotted to members of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) communities, 8 percent each for Economically Backward Classes from among the OBCs and upper castes, and 3 percent for women, the report said.

The Janata Dal United (JD(U)), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have always reportedly rushed to stake claim over Thakur’s legacy.

The Centre’s recognition for the state’s first non-Congress Chief Minister meets a long-standing demand of

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said Bharat Ratna for Karpoori Thakur has been a long-standing demand of his party and the state government.

Kumar praised Prime Minister Modi for the central government’s decision to confer Bharat Ratna on the socialist icon. “This will create a positive vibe among Dalits, deprived and neglected sections of society. We have been demanding this for a long time,” Kumar said.

“First of all, I would like to express gratitude to PM Narendra Modi. Karpoori Thakur’s entire life was dedicated to the poor and deprived…Those who do politics in his name never thought for him, they just did politics in his name. Parties formed government with Congress but Karpoori Thakur did not get the honour,” said union minister Nityanand Rai.

Coming ahead of the general election, it is seen as the BJP’s masterstroke in a state that has 40 parliamentary seats. Karpoori Thakur being a member of Other Backward Castes, many see it as part of the BJP’s attempt to gain allegiance of this section which has so far been loyal to Nitish Kumar.

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