Former West Bengal Chief Minister and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday rejected the Padma Bhushan award, hours after his name was announced for it.

The CPI(M) quoted Bhattacharjee as saying that he did not know about the Padma Bhushan award and was not informed about it. “I refuse to accept the Padma Bhushan award if they have conferred it,” he said.

“The CPI(M) policy has been consistent in declining such awards from the State,” the party added. “Our work is for the people not for awards.”

The party noted that earlier, former Kerala Chief Minister and party leader EMS Namboodripad had been offered an award but he had declined it.

In 1992, Namboodripad had been nominated for the Padma Vibhushan during the tenure of the PV Narasimha Rao government, but had declined the award.

Responding to Bhattacharjee’s statement, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said on Twitter that declining the award was the right thing to do. “He wants to be Azad (free) not Ghulam (slave),” Ramesh remarked.

The remark appeared to be a jibe at Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was among the persons named for the Padma Bhushan. Earlier, Azad, was one of 23 Congress leaders who wrote to the party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi calling for sweeping changes to its structure.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Priti Gandhi said that Bhattacharjee had insulted the nation, and not the BJP, by rejecting the Padma Bhushan. “Padma Awards don’t belong to any single party or ideology,” she said. “If this is how you respond to the honour that your country bestows upon you, it only reveals your character.”

Singer Sandhya Mukherjee refuses Padma Shri

Meanwhile, playback singer Sandhya Mukherjee also refused to accept a Padma Shri award on Tuesday, PTI reported.

An official from the Union government had contacted Mukherjee regarding the award. The singer’s daughter Soumi Sengupta reportedly told the official that Mukherjee was not willing to be named as a recipient.

“At the age of 90, with a singing career spanning over about eight decades, being chosen for Padma Shri is demeaning for a singer of her stature,” Sengupta said.

Sengupta added that the decision was not motivated by political considerations, according to India Today. “She is far beyond any politics,” she said. “Please don’t try to find out any political reasons in it. She felt insulted, that’s all.”

The names of four persons for the Padma Vibhushan awards, 17 for the Padma Bhushan and 107 for the Padma Shri were announced on Tuesday. The awards are given each year to civilians for their services in various fields.