New York-based author and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s sister Gita Mehta has declined to accept the prestigious Padma Shri award that the Narendra Modi led government had conferred on her claiming that the timing of the award just months before elections may be “misconstrued”.
According to the reports, Gita Mehta in a statement has said that accepting the award at this time will embarrass both her and the government. “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 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,” the statement said.
The NDA government had conferred Padma Shri to Gita Mehta in the ‘Foreigners’ category for her distinguished work in Art & Literature.
A News18 report claims that Gita Mehta and her husband Sonny Mehta had met Prime Minister Modi recently in an unusual 90-minute long meeting setting speculations that it was an attempt by the BJP to draw Biju Janata Dal and its supremo Naveen Patnaik to the NDA fold before the general elections.
On the eve of Republic Day celebrations, the Union government announced the decision of conferring Padma Awards to 112 people for their ‘exceptional and distinguished service in various fields such as art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil service, etc.
Padma Awards are one of the highest civilian awards of the country. Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri are the three categories of awards bestowed upon the individuals for their outstanding service to the nation. This year 4 Padma Vibhushan, 14 Padma Bhushan and 94 Padma Shri Awards will be awarded, out of which 21 of the awardees are women.
The government of India also announced that the highest civilian award of the country, Bharat Ratna will be conferred on three persons, two of them posthumously. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Nanaji Deshmukh, Bhupen Hazarika and former President Pranab Mukherjee have been conferred with Bharat Ratna.