New Delhi, March 27: President Pranab Mukherjee's gesture to personally visit Atal Bihari Vajpayee to hand over the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian honour, to the ailing former prime minister on Friday evening, has been widely welcomed.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Murli Manohar Joshi said the president by stepping out of protocol to personally visit Vajpayee at his Krishna Menon Marg residence to hand over the award to him is "a good and right step" as the former prime minister is in poor health [Atal Bihari Vajpayee to be conferred Bharat Ratna on March 27]
Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Nitish Kumar said he welcomed the move to award Vajpayee, 90, the Bharat Ratna.
"The gesture of the president to go to his house to hand over the award is a very good step," he said. "We had demanded the Bharat Ratna for Atal-ji," he added.
Mukherjee will go to Vajpayee's residence here and confer the Bharat Ratna on him at an event in the evening.
Vajpayee's 88-year-old sister welcomed the move to give the top award to her brother. "I have congratulated him and I am very happy. The tears come to my eyes when I think about the honour," she told reporters.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: "This is a proud moment for the country and all of us. He is a tall leader, a leader par excellence who has worked tirelessly for the country."
"He is a good orator, political leader, thinker and poet. There are very few people like him," he added.
MDMK leader Vaiko said: "Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the tallest leader of India. He is a true democrat, a great parliamentarian, a visionary. My association with him was for three decades. I dearly cherish the memories."
JD-U leader Sharad Yadav said: "We are all very happy that he is being conferred the Bharat Ratna. People are very happy. I had many occasions to interact with him through our 42-year-long association, so I am very happy."
Jaitley: He is a good orator, political leader, thinker and poet
Home Minister Rajnath Singh expressed happiness over Vajpayee being conferred the highest civilian award of the country.
"It is a moment of pride and happiness that Bharat Ratna will be conferred upon Atal-ji today (Friday). He is loved and admired by everyone," he tweeted.
Speaking to reporters, the home minister said Vajpayee is not just an Indian statesman but an international icon who is respected and loved by everyone.
"Atal-ji's name evokes a sense of respect and reverence in every heart," he said, adding that it is a matter of immense happiness for the whole country that Vajpayee is being bestowed with the honour.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted: "Happy that Atal ji is being conferred Bharat Ratna today (Friday). A truly great statesman who richly deserves honour. I wish him well..."
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted: "Heartiest congratulations to our revered mentor & beloved Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji for being conferred with 'Bharat Ratna' today."
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: "My heartfelt congratulations to Vajpayee sahib & his family on the day he receives the Bharat Ratna. It was an honour to serve under him."