Author Gita Mehta, who is the sister of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, declined the Centre’s decision to honour her with a Padma Shri award, ANI reported on Saturday. The author of Karma Cola cited the impending General Elections and said the timing of her being conferred with the award may be misconstrued.
The Ministry of Home Affairs listed Gita Mehta as a foreigner and said she was being honoured for her distinguished contribution to literature and education.
“I am deeply honoured that the government should think me worthy of a Padma Shri, but with great regret I decline it as there is a general election looming and timing might be misconstrued, causing embarrassment both to the government and to me, which I would much regret,” ANI quoted her as saying.
Gita Mehta’s husband, Sonny Mehta, is a publisher who has worked on former United States President Barack Obama and former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair’s bestselling books. Sonny Mehta is the editor-in-chief of Alfred A Knopf and chairman of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Unidentified officials told NDTV that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Office had set up a meeting with the Mehtas months before the award was declared. The purported meeting lasted 90 minutes, the report said. The three discussed Biju Patnaik, the founder of Biju Janata Dal and other matters, the official said.
While Patnaik is contesting against Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party for a fifth term to the Odisha state government, the Opposition Congress has alleged that the BJP and the Biju Janata Dal have a tacit agreement. On Friday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi claimed that Modi was “remote controlling Patnaik”.