Come Republic Day, worthy Indians will be recognised by the nation, honoured with the Padma Shri or the Padma Bhushan or the Padma Vibhushan.
But for seven years, the column against the country's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, has remained blank.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Kishenchand Advani recently set the Bharat Ratna ball rolling by proposing former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the honour, which was last bestowed upon singer Lata Mangeshkar and shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan in 2001.
Advani said of Vajpayee, who was 83 on December 25, that 'he is the first prime minister to have led a stable and successful coalition. He not only preached but practised coalition dharma. Under his premiership, India became a nuclear weapons power.'
Some said Advani was returning Vajpayee a favour for endorsing him as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate for the next general election. Some felt Advani was pre-empting a move by the Left to propose Jyoti Basu for the honour.
Image: L K Advani wants Atal Bihari Vajpayee to be honoured with the Bharat Ratna. If the government agrees, it will upset allies like Laloo Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Communists. If it disagrees, the BJP will tell voters that the government is petty not to recognise Vajpayee's achievements. Photograph: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images
Also read: At 82, Atal Bihari Vajpayee remains relevant
Samajwadi Party urges Bharat Ratna for Mulayam Singh
Now, CPI-M wants Bharat Ratna for Jyoti Basu
Honour Vajpayee with the Bharat Ratna, Advani tells PM
Mayawati seeks Bharat Ratna for Kanshi Ram
Basu, not Vajpayee, should get Bharat Ratna: Lalu