THE GOVERNMENT turned down proposals to grant the prestigious Padma awards to some prominent politicians and celebrities, including BJD MP Baijayant Panda, spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, air hostess (the late) Neerja Bhanot, former cricket captain M S Dhoni and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, according to the list of 18,768 nominations made public by the Home Ministry.
The names of NCP chief Sharad Pawar and BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who were awarded the Padma Vibhushan, are not on the nomination list. Officials said they were conferred the highest civilian award under the “public affairs” category, which falls under the government’s discretion — the list does not mention who nominated them.
The award ceremony is likely to be held later this month at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
According to the list, the maximum number of nominations were received in the name of Ram Rahim, who has also produced and starred in three movies. Bhanot, who was killed during a hijack in 1986, was nominated by BJP MP from Chandigarh Kirron Kher. A biopic on the airhostess, starring Sonam Kapoor, was released last year.
The Home Ministry has not cited reasons for rejecting the names.
The nominees who did not make the final list included Supreme Court judge, Justice Amitava Roy, who was part of the bench that convicted former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s aide, V K Sasikala, in a disproportionate assets case. And, NIA’s founding chief, the late Radha Vinod Raju, who was nominated by one Bhaarath Chandresh Shah from Chennai.
Among the Bollywood celebrities who didn’t make the last cut are actor Manoj Bajpayee, whose name was recommended from Bihar; actor and Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan and filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who were nominated from Mumbai.
The others who fell short also included music composer Anu Malik and Hindustani classical vocalist Pt Ajay Pohankar were recommended by BJP MP and HRD minister Prakash Javadekar. BJP MP from Mumbai, Poonam Mahajan, nominated Indian classical musician Ghulam Mustafa Waris Khan.
The awards search committee, comprising bureaucrats and eminent personalities. considered the names of 18 others including S Chinny Krishna, vice-chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. Only three of those 18, musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, wrestler Sakshi Malik and gymnast Dipa Karmakar, were named for the awards.
Among the other nominees who didn’t make it were archer Dola Banerjee from West Bengal; former Olympic champion and shooter Abhinav Bindra; badminton player Jwala Gutta; singer Sonu Nigam; actor Sridevi Kapoor; anchor and journalist Arnab Goswami; media personality Pritish Nandy; and, fashion designer Rohit Bal.
In all, 89 persons were conferred the Padma awards in January, including seven Padma Vibhushan, seven Padma Bhushan and 75 Padma Shri winners. The search committee, set up to screen the nominations, comprised the Cabinet Secretary, Secretary to the President, Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary, actor Waheeda Rehman, journalist and MP Dr Harivansh; political analyst S Gurumurthy; and, badminton player turned coach Pullela Gopichand among others.