The Centre on Friday conferred former President Pranab Mukherjee the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award. Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader Nanaji Deshmukh and singer and musician Bhupen Hazarika have also been awarded posthumously.

Mukherjee said he accepted the honour with “deep sense of humility and gratitude”. “ I have always said and I repeat, that I have got more from the people of our great country than I have given to them,” he said on Twitter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Mukherjee is an “outstanding statesman of our times”. “He has served the nation selflessly and tirelessly for decades, leaving a strong imprint on the nation’s growth trajectory,” Modi said on Twitter. “His wisdom and intellect have few parallels. Delighted that he has been conferred the Bharat Ratna.”

The prime minister said Hazarika’s songs radiates the message of justice, harmony and brotherhood. Hazarika popularised India’s music traditions globally, he added.

“Nanaji Deshmukh’s stellar contribution towards rural development showed the way for a new paradigm of empowering those living in our villages. He personifies humility, compassion and service to the downtrodden. He is a Bharat Ratna in the truest sense!” he wrote about Deshmukh.

Congress President congratulated Mukherjee on the honour. “The Congress Party takes great pride in the fact that the immense contribution to public service and nation building of one of our own has been recognised and honoured,” he said on Twitter.