Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik's sister Gita Mehta declines Padma Shri, author says timing may be 'misconstrued' with polls on horizon

  • New York-based author and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s older sister Gita Mehta on Thursday declined the Padma Shri award conferred to her.

  • Her reason for declining the award was that the timing of the gesture may be misconstrued as it comes just before the Lok Sabha elections.

  • Gita and her husband, famous publisher Sonny Mehta, had met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few months before the award was announced.

  • The move was seen as the BJP’s attempt to woo Odisha chief minister Naeen Patnaik in case of a hung assembly in the upcoming general elections.

New York-based author and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s older sister Gita Mehta on Thursday announced that she has declined the Padma Shri award. Gita said the timing of the announcement which comes just weeks before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, may be "misconstrued".

Gita's younger brother Naveen is the president of the Biju Janata Dal. He had recently announced that his party would like to remain "equidistant" from both the BJP and the Congress.

The recipients of the award were announced on the eve of Republic Day.

 Odisha CM Naveen Patnaiks sister Gita Mehta declines Padma Shri, author says timing may be misconstrued with polls on horizon

File image of New York-based author Gita Mehta. penguin.co.in

In a statement, she said she is "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 me, which I would regret."

The development comes after Gita and her husband, famous publisher Sonny Mehta, had met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few months before the award was announced, News18 reported.

When first contacted by the prime minister, the couple had been under the impression that Modi "might have been thinking of getting his biography written", reported NDTV. Sonny Mehta has published the autobiographies and biographies of a number of famous people, including former American president Barack Obama, former British president Tony Blair and tennis star Andre Agassi.

The announcement of the award for Gita is being seen as the BJP’s attempt to woo the Odisha chief minister in case of a hung assembly in the upcoming general elections.

Mehta was conferred the Padma Shri in the 'Foreigners' category for her work in art and literature. This year, four Padma Vibhushan, 14 Padma Bhushan and 94 Padma Shri Awards will be awarded. Twenty one of the awardees are women.

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Updated Date: Jan 26, 2019 10:39:28 IST