Two key leaders of opposition parties — senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and CPM’s former Bengal Chief Minister Buddhdeb Bhattacharjee — were on the list of the Padma awardees announced by the Centre on the eve of the 73rd Republic Day. Both were awarded the Padma Bhushan.
A Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award in India, was conferred posthumously on Kalyan Singh — former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh — on the eve of assembly elections in the state.
The Central award for Ghulam Nabi Azad comes amid a churn within the Congress over leadership issues.
Mr Azad has been among the party veterans calling sweeping organisational changes and a permanent accountable leadership.
The party has already lost a number of senior leaders — an exodus that started with the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee headed the CPM’s government at its citadel in Bengal till it suffered a massive defeat at the hands of Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress in 2011.
The other recipients of the Padma awards included General Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff who was killed last year in a helicopter crash, vaccine makers Krishna Ella, Suchitra Ella, Cyrus Poonawalla, and Indian-origin Silicon Valley titans Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai.