As the Union government announced a list of 114 recipients for the prestigious Padma civilian awards on the eve of Republic Day, observers on social media quickly spotted a trend.

Three of the award winners had participated in the March for India in Delhi in October, protesting against writers and other cultural luminaries who had been returning their awards to express their disquiet over what they said was the rising tide of intolerance in the country. While actor Anupam Kher had led the effort, director Madhur Bhandarkar and singer Malini Awasthi had cheered him on.

The march was seen as an effort to back the government, as supporters of the prime minister had urged people across India to show support for Kher in their own cities and declared that March for India was a "slap in the face" of all liberals daring to call India "intolerant".

On Monday, many attributed the decision to award the trio as a reward for their loyalty. Kher in particular was singled out on social media for criticism, overshadowing even Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth, who will be awarded the Padma Vibhushan.

Kher was ecstatic on being selected for the Padma Bhushan and expressed his happiness in a series of tweets. But he was promptly called out for a post six years ago in which he questioned the authenticity of the awards.

As mudslinging ensued on Twitter, there was the usual humour. Here's a selection.