Gita Mehta, the elder sister of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, on Saturday declined to accept the Padma Shri award citing the timing of the award.
Mehta, a noted writer, was selected for the prestigious honour on Friday for her outstanding contribution to the field of art and literature.
Stating that the timing of the honour is questionable, Mehta said she would regret if the award is misconstrued given that the nation and Odisha are heading to polls soon.
“I am deeply honoured that the government of India should think me worthy of a Padma Shri but with great regret I feel I must decline (it) as there is a general election looming and the timing of the award might be misconstrued, causing embarrassment both to the government and myself, which I would much regret,” said Mehta in a press statement from New York.
Author of books like ‘Karma Cola’ (1979), ‘Raj’ (1989), ‘A River Sutra’ (1993), ‘Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India’ (1997) and ‘Eternal Ganesha: From Birth to Rebirth’ (2006), Mehta has also produced and or directed 14 documentaries.
Odisha will face both general and Assembly elections in April-May this year.
On Friday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who was in Odisha, alleged that Naveen Patnaik was “a junior partner” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During his last three visits to Odisha, PM Modi attacked the state government but did not name Patnaik, who is the chief of Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
Mehta is the only one so far to have declined the Padma award announced this year.
Besides Mehta, six others from the Literature and Education field have been conferred the award. She was also one of the 11 persons picked for the prestigious honour in the ‘Foreigners’ category and one of the 21 women awardees.
President Ram Nath Kovind approved the names of 112 people from various disciplines for the Padma awards. While four will be honoured with Padma Vibhushan – the nation’s second-highest civilian honour, 14 people have been selected for Padma Bhushan and 94 for Padma Shri.