Odisha CM’s sister & noted writer declines Padma Shri, cites timing of the gesture

NEW DELHI: US-based noted writer Gita Mehta, who is also the elder sister of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, on Saturday declined to accept the prestigious Padma Shri award, announced on Friday evening.

Mehta said the timing of the gesture was questionable as the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was set to take place and the award may cause embarrassment both to the Odisha government and her.

“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 (it) 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,” said Mehta in a press statement from New York.

According to NDTV reports, months before she was conferred the honour, PM Modi reached out to Gita and had an unusually 90-minute meeting with her and her husband, famous publisher Sonny Mehta, which was seen as and attempt of the saffron party to inch closer to BJP leader Naveen Patnaik ahead of 2019 election.

Mehta had been selected for the Padma Shri in the ‘Foreigners’ category for her outstanding contribution to the field of art and literature.

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Mehta has authored books like ‘Karma Cola’ (1979), ‘Raj’ (1989), ‘A River Sutra’ (1993), ‘Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India’ (1997) and ‘Eternal Ganesha: From Birth to Rebirth’ (2006).

She has also produced and or directed 14 documentaries. She has published best-sellers of Barack Obama and many others, including Tony Blair.

Odisha will face both general and Assembly elections in April-May this year. The BJP and BJD are trying hard to edge out each other in the state.

On Friday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who was in Odisha, alleged that Naveen Patnaik was “a junior partner” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

With agency inputs