Bhubaneswar: Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik’s sister Gita Mehta’s refusal to accept the coveted Padma Shri award has triggered political furor in State with Congress seeing the move as an attempt to safeguard Naveen’s political carrer.
Congress further alleged that Mehta’s selection is a political tactic of BJP to woo Naveen Patnaik ahead of general election. “The BJP which is leading the government in Centre has selected Mehta to please his brother Naveen Patnaik. It shows the secret nexus between BJD and BJP. Gita refused the award only to make her brother (Naveen) happy”, Congress MLA and Opposition chief whip in Odisha Assembly Tara Prasad Bahinipati said.
BJP disliked such decision of Mehta, saying that it would an insult to the nation. “Even though it is her personal choice, but declining a national award is disrespect to the nation. It’s not justified, if she turns down the award, fearing that it would affect the political career of her brother (Naveen Patnaik),” BJP State general secretary Prithviraj Harichandan said.
BJD, however, said the matter should not be analyzed politically as it is a matter of personal choice. “It is someone’s personal choice whether to accept an award or not. Just because she is the sister of chief minister Naveen Patnaik, she is being dragged into politics”, BJD spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Pratap Deb said.
A day after the announcement of Padma Award, Mehta who was selected in the field of literature and education, today turned down the award, citing ‘time is not right’.
In a press statement issued from New York, Mehta said she was refusing the award as the timing for it was not right.
“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,” Mehta said in the statement.
Notably, the general election is due in a few months. It has been rumoured in the political circles that the Centre’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was trying to woo Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in case there was a hung assembly.
Gita Mehta has authored 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.