Gita Mehta declines Padma Shri citing 'timing'

Gita Mehta declines Padma Shri citing 'timing'

Eminent writer Gita Mehta. (Image courtesy Twitter)

In an embarrassment to the Narendra Modi-led government, writer and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's sister Gita Mehta has declined to accept Padma Shri conferred on her, saying it could be "misconstrued" when the Lok Sabha election is just months away.

Issuing a statement from New York where she is based, Mehta said she was "deeply honoured" that the government thought her of "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," she said in her statement.

The Padma awards were released late on Friday night and 76-year-old Mehta, the author of 'Karma Cola', 'A River Sutra', 'Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India' and 'Eternal Ganesha: From Birth to Rebirth', was chosen from the literature and education section. She has also produced and directed 14 documentaries.

Interestingly, Patnaik's Twitter message on Padma awards on Saturday morning had skipped his sister's name. "Heartfelt congratulations to Odisha’s illustrious achievers Daitari Naik, Kamala Pujhari and Devarapalli Prakash Rao, for being amongst Padma award winners; wish them the very best for their continued work and greater success," he tweeted at 7:53 AM.

Mehta's name in the list had triggered speculation about the BJP's plan to humour the BJD chief, who is keeping equidistant from both the saffron party and the Congress, ahead of the general elections.

Last year, Mehta along with her publisher-husband Sonny Mehta, who published books of several American presidents including Barack Obama among others, had met Modi for about 90 minutes triggering speculation about BJP launching an attempt to woo BJD to its side.

Amid speculation about Patnaik's health, there was also a buzz earlier that Mehta may return to India to take the reins of the party. She was initially viewed by many in Odisha to be the successor of Janata Dal giant Biju Patnaik but she had refused to plunge into politics.