Odiya origin author Geeta Mehta on Friday declined the Padma Shri for distinguished contribution to literature and education, explaining the honour may be “misconstrued… with a general election looming”.
Mehta is the sister of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and daughter of former CM Biju Patnaik. Based in New York, Mehta has authored several books.
The list of Padma awardees released on the website of Ministry of Home Affairs listed Mehta as a “foreigner”.
In a press statement from New York, Mehta stated, “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”.
Beside the Lok Sabha elections, Mehta’s brother Naveen Patnaik is waging a hard fought contest against the BJP as he seeks a fifth continuous term as chief minister. The other opposition party in Odisha, Congress, has repeatedly alleged a tacit understanding between Naveen-led BJD and the BJP.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “remote controlling” Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik because of the chit fund scam in the state.
Gandhi had said, “Naveen Patnaik sits and stands when Modi presses a button. When a bill has to be passed in Parliament, chowkidaar presses the button and Naveen has it passed. The entire country calls notebandi (demonetisation) a folly. Naveen Patnaik also thinks it is wrong. Then chowkidaar presses a button and Naveen calls it a good move.”
“Odisha is being run from Nagpur and Delhi”, Gandhi alleged. The BJD has dismissed the allegations as a sign of “frustration within Congress”.
Requesting anonymity, a senior leader in BJD told The Indian Express, “She is absolutely right to decline the award both from an ethical and practical perspective. Accepting the honour would give the ridiculous allegations by Congress further mileage”.