Writer Gita Mehta declines Padma Award

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NEW DELHI — A day after being named as a recipient of the Padma Shri, noted English writer Gita Mehta has declined the award on Saturday citing that “the timing of the award might be misconstrued.”

The Union government announced the Padma Awards, one of the highest civilian Awards of the country, on Friday, ahead of the 70th Republic Day. Ms. Mehta, the sister of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, was among the 94 Padma Shri awardees. She was selected for her contribution in the field of literature.

Ms. Mehta issued a press statement from New York on Saturday. “I am deeply honoured that the Government of India should think me worthy of a Padma Shri but with great regret I feel I must decline as there is a general election looming and the timing of the award might be misconstrued, causing embarrassment both to the Government and myself, which I would much regret,” the statement read.

Ms. Mehta has authored several books in English including, Karma Cola, Raj, A River Sutra, Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India, and Eternal Ganesha : From Birth to Rebirth. She has also produced and directed as many as 14 television documentaries.

There were speculations in 2017 that the Biju Janata Dal would send Ms. Mehta to the Rajya Sabha. However, Mr. Patnaik dismissed them as rumours and the party blamed the BJP for spreading such false news.

The rumor about Ms. Mehta picked up when BJD MP Baijayant Panda indicated her entry into Odisha politics in a newspaper article. Without mentioning Ms. Mehta’s name, Mr. Panda in a message for the Chief Minister said “Your (Patnaik’s) father always stood against promoting family politics. We hope you (Naveen) would also uphold the same principle.” Mr. Panda was later suspended from the party, and he subsequently resigned from the BJD.

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