Eminent author Gita Mehta, who was on Friday conferred Indian’s fourth-highest civilian honour – Padma Shri – in the field of literature and education, has on Saturday “politely declined” to accept the award.
The Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s elder sister issued a statement from New York, saying, “I am deeply honoured that the government of India should think we 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 may be misconstrued, causing embarrassment both to the government and myself, which I would much regret.”
The Lok Sabha elections and the Odisha Assembly elections are due to be held together this year. Mehta’s declining of the Padma award, however, triggered a row in the state with the BJP saying her action was not appropriate and the Congress claiming that the whole episode showed the close links between the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the BJP.
The 76-year-old writer is known for her book ‘Karma Cola’ which was published in 1979. Since then, the wife of publisher Sonny Mehta, has written several other books and has also worked on 14 TV documentaries. Mehta is a former war correspondent of American TV network NBC.
Former BJD MP Jay Panda tweeted, “Wow. But she’s got a point.” Naveen Patnaik said, “I congratulate all the Odias who got the Padma award.” He, however, refused to comment on his sister’s refusal to accept the honour.