As the President of India conferred the highest civilian award of the country, 'Bharat Ratna', to Late social activist Nanaji Deshmukh, late playback singer Bhupen Hazarika and former President of India Pranab Mukherjee, Congress' Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi was absent from the event. Even as the Congress veteran received the third highest honour of the country, the Gandhi family was absent from the event.
While PM Modi and others from the BJP were present in the event and congratulated former President Mukherjee, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi skipped the event, which the netizens said was an insult. PM Modi thanked them for their contribution and said that they are inspiration. Taking to Twitter, PM Modi wrote for former President Mukherjee that it was an honour for him to witness him receiving the Bharat Ratna. He called it a 'fitting recognition of everything that Mukherjee has done for the nation.
Former President of India and Congress veteran was also congratulated by the Home Minister Amit Shah who said that a leader par excellence who has served the nation with utmost dedication and commitment.
The Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India. Instituted in 1954, the award is conferred "in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order", without distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex. The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science, and public services, but the government expanded the criteria to include "any field of human endeavour" in December 2011. The recommendations for the Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to the President, with a maximum of three nominees being awarded per year. Recipients receive a Sanad signed by the President and a peepal-leaf–shaped medallion; there is no monetary grant associated with the award. Bharat Ratna recipients rank seventh in the Indian order of precedence.