Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray Saturday demanded that the country’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, be conferred on Amitabh Bachchan. “Amitabh Bachchan is the last ‘Shahenshah’ (emperor) of Bollywood. In many countries of the world, the people don’t know who is the president or prime minister of the country, but they know Bachchan," Thackeray said in an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna. "He is a real jewel of India who has brought laurels to the country...Bachchan truly deserves the Bharat Ratna,” Thackeray said. Praising various qualities of the megastar, he pointed out that some time ago, another Bharat Ratna, singer Lata Mangeshkar, had also suggested Bachchan’s name for the honour. Bachchan is “as deserving as Sachin Tendulkar for the Bharat Ratna,” but the central government and the Congress has ignored it in view of strained relations between the Bachchan and the Gandhi family, Thackeray said. Thackeray referred to the smear campaigns against Bachchan as recently someone used a fake Twitter account in the actor's name, tweeting malicious statements against the Shahrukh Khan starrer RA.One. Actor Sayali Bhagat hurled allegations of misbehaviour at Bachchan, but she now denied it, the Shiv Sena chief said. “Who is this ‘Ravana’ behind these slander campaigns against a respected person like Bachchan? This should be probed,” Thackeray demanded, without naming anybody. Thackeray’s comments assume significance in view of the ongoing Maharashtrians versus north-Indians debate here that has been kicked off by city Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam. "We are not a burden on Mumbai," the MP said October 24 adding, "If north Indians take a single day off, Mumbai will be practically paralysed."
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