Nobody worthy of 'Bharat Ratna' right now: Thackeray

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{image-bharat ratna_21012008.jpg www.oneindia.com}Mumbai, Jan 21: Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has ridiculed demands of political parties that 'Bharat Ratna' be awarded to their leaders, saying there is no towering personality right now, who is worthy of the highest honour.

''Even though there are several experts in their respective fields, no one is worthy of a Bharat Ratna'' Mr Thackeray was quoted by his party mouthpiece 'Saamna' today in the first part of the three-series interview to mark his 82nd birthday, which falls on January 23. Interestingly, it was Mr Thackeray's ally, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha L K Advani's letter to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for conferring Bharat Ratna on veteran party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee that had triggered a spate of demands from different quarters about honouring their respective leaders with the highest award.

Mr Thackeray said ''I will never accept Bharat Ratna. It is another issue as to who will actually nominate me. But, I have observed that the award is either given posthumously or the award winners die early. I will surely not want it.'' Mr Thackeray said he would not hestitate to oppose President Pratibha Patil if the issue of hanging of the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was not settled. ''In fact, Ms Patil cannot be blamed for the delay as it is Sonia Gandhi who calls the shots. I had supported Ms Patil for the President's office because it was for the first time that a Maharashtrian was to get the honour,'' he added.

He also dispelled speculations of his ill health. ''I am in fine health. Curious people are free to do a sting operation to check the facts,'' Mr Thackeray said.

He said he was leading an almost retired life and spending time reading newspapers and works of leading authors. ''I am turning 82 this week,'' he said.

Mr Thackeray also lauded his son Uddhav Thackeray's efforts to give an organisational structure to the Party. ''He has decentralised the Party and made all the officebearers accountable,'' he added.

UNI

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