Renowned author and Naveen Patnaik’s elder sister, Gita Mehta, was conferred the fourth highest civilian honour, Padma Shri, in the field of literature and education on Friday. However, the eminent author reportedly denied the honour. With this controversial move, she has unnecessarily dragged the prestigious civilian honour into petty politics.
Mehta issued a statement from New York, in which she said, “I am deeply honoured that the government of India should think we 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 may be misconstrued, causing embarrassment both to the government and myself, which I would much regret.” Thus, she has denied the prestigious honour because she feels that the “timing” of the award was not correct. This seems nothing more than a lame excuse to deny such a prestigious honour. The Lok Sabha elections and Odisha assembly polls are due later this year and possibly Mehta happens to think that this award could translate into a political advantage for the BJP in the state of Odisha. Whatever may have been the reason, Gita Mehta has set a wrong precedent by subjecting the civilian honour to the political and electoral circumstances in the country.
While the BJP stated that Mehta’s move refusing the award was not appropriate, the Congress anyhow decided to go ahead with its charge that the BJP and the ruling party in Odisha, BJD have close links with each other. Odisha chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, however, refused to make any remarks about her sister’s refusal to accept the honour.
It was a commendable move by the Modi government to rise above party lines and confer the renowned author with the civilian honour. It must be appreciated that the government made an apolitical move and Mehta was bestowed with the Padam Shri only on the basis of merit. This had set a very good example for the future as well. It also went in line with the purpose of conferring such civilian honours. The government ensured that instead of making the award a political tool, its true object is realised.
While the government’s move and intent seem to have been to confer Gita Mehta with the Padma Shri on the basis of merit, Mehta seems to have had the intention of publicly snubbing the government. While the government’s move was apolitical, it appears as if Mehta tried to create a situation where it would appear that the Modi government tried to woo the Navin Patnaik-led party in Odisha by conferring the honour on Gita Mehta but failed to do so even as she refused it. If this is true then this is a really unsavoury way of desperately trying to acquire a political advantage.
One must understand that unnecessarily refusing to accept such a civilian honour like Padma Shri brings the merits of the civilian title in question. The honour carries a lot of importance and significance behind it. Gita Mehta has not only questioned the merits of such a prestigious honour but she has also dragged the honour into petty politics. The government had set a very good precedent by rising above party lines and conferring the title on Naveen Patnaik’s sister, however, it seems that Mehta could not reciprocate in the correct manner even as she failed to rise above political ideology.