Amidst heightened speculations over nominations for Bharat Ratna, NDA ally in Maharashtra Republican Party of India (RPI-A) today demanded that social reformer Jyotiba Phule be conferred the country's highest civilian award. The RPI-A, raking up the issue of prolonged absence of MPs from the Rajya Sabha, including by cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and actress Rekha, demanded that Rekha's membership be cancelled and party leader Rakhi Sawant be given membership.
RPI chief Ramdas Athawale and Rakhi Sawant told reporters here that Mahatma Jyotirao Govindrao Phule, also known as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, was a revolutionary leader and worked not only for Maharashtra but for the whole country. "On August 15, people from various fields are being given Bharat Ratna. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule was a revolutionary leader...he is an idol for the whole country. He has not only worked in Maharashtra but all through the country.
"Baba Saheb Ambedkar had considered him as his guru... If Subhash Chandra Bose, Madan Mohan Malviya and even Atal Bihari Vajpayee are being given Bharat Ratna, I think there should also be a thought of giving Bharat Ratna to Mahatma Phule," Athawale said, adding that he would write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh regarding this and meet them as well. Rakhi said she had come to Delhi with many expecations from both Modi and Rajnath.
"I will meet everybody and put in our demands in front of them. We want to take RPI(A) forward. I worship Babasaheb Ambedkar. Whatever promises Narendra Modi has done for our Dalit brothers, I hope he fulfils them. "I have come to Delhi to fulfil my dream. My dream is that Athawaleji become a minister and one day he becomes Prime Minister. If a tea-seller (Modi) can become Prime Minister, why not Athawale as he works so much for poor people. Like he (Modi) said good days are coming (Ache din ane wale hai-BJP poll slogan), we are waiting for that," she said.
Athawale, however, said that although he does not want to become Prime Minister, he hoped that "Narendra Modi will think about me whenever he decides to go ahead with expansion of his cabinet".