Former Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, singing legend Sandhya Mukherjee reject Padma honours: What the row is all about
The former Bengal chief minister was conferred upon the Padma Bhushan while the veteran playback singer Sandhya Mukherjee was awarded with the Padma Shri
As the government announced the Padma awards on the eve of Republic Day, a row broke out when former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and veteran playback singer Sandhya Mukherjee rejected their honours.
As it is an extremely rare instance of a recipient turning down one of India's top civilian honours, here’s a look at what happened.
Buddhadeb rejects honour
On Tuesday, the veteran CPM leader and former West Bengal chief minister was awarded the Padma Bhushan award, which he has reportedly turned down.
According to a statement issued by him, he said, "I know nothing about this award. No one has told me anything about it. If they have decided to offer Padma Bhushan to me, I refuse to accept it."
A News18 report states that 77-year-old Bhattacharya, a staunch critic of the Narendra Modi dispensation and chief minister of West Bengal from 2000-2011, is currently very ill and bedridden.
Sources, as per a PTI report, were cited as saying that the home ministry had informed the wife of the ailing veteran leader about the government's decision to give him the Padma Bhushan early Tuesday morning, and no one from his family objected to it.
Usually the norm is that the Central government seeks the concurrence of an awardee before announcing his name for the Padma award.
Additionally, the CPM also issued a statement, saying it was the party’s policy not to accept State awards.
"Comrade Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who was nominated for the Padma Bhushan award has declined to accept it. The CPI(M) policy has been consistent in declining such awards from the State. Our work is for the people not for awards. Comrade EMS (Namboodiripad) who was earlier offered an award had declined it." the CPM tweeted.
The decision to forgo the award was one taken by Bhattacharjee and the party.
"Communists don't hanker after state awards. Earlier, Jyoti Basu had refused Bharat Ratna when his name was doing rounds in 2008. So this was expected," CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty was quoted as saying.
Echoing him, CPM leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya told PTI that accepting an award from a government "dividing people into communal lines" was out of the question.
The decision to reject the Padma Bhushan, predictably, evoked several reactions from leaders across the political spectrum.
BJP national vice president Dilip Ghosh said it was his personal decision. "The country had decided to honour him. Now it is up to him to decide on whether he wants to accept it or not," he said.
Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress claimed the nexus between the CPM and BJP stands exposed as Bhattacharjee made no contributions that deserved an award. "Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will be remembered for Nandigram and Singur forcible land acquisition. This decision by the BJP government to confer Padma Bhushan only exposes the CPI(M) and BJP's tacit understanding in West Bengal," TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh took a veiled dig at party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad who was also conferred with the award.
"Right thing to do. He wants to be Azad not Ghulam," Ramesh said on Twitter after Bhattacharya declined the Padma award.
Right thing to do. He wants to be Azad not Ghulam. https://t.co/iMWF00S9Ib
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) January 25, 2022
Padma award for Sandhya Mukherjee hits wrong note
And it wasn’t just Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who rejected the Padma honour. Singing legend Sandhya Mukherjee — also known as Sandhya Mukhopadhyay — also refused an offer of a Padma Shri award.
News agency PTI reported that her daughter Soumi Sengupta said that Mukherjee told the senior official who called from Delhi that she was not willing to be named as a Padma Shri recipient on being contacted seeking her consent to being named a Padma Shri in the Republic Day awards list.
"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.
"Padma Shri is more deserving for a junior artiste, not `Gitasree' Sandhya Mukhopadhay. Her family and all the lovers of her songs feel," the daughter said.
For those who don't know, Sandhya Mukherjee, who has received the 'Banga Bibhushan' honour, has also sung a number of songs for Bollywood movie music directors including S D Burman, Anil Biswas, Madan Mohan, Roshan and Salil Choudhary.
With inputs from PTI