Santiniketan: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not confer the 'Desikottam', Visva-Bharati University's highest award, during its convocation ceremony tomorrow due to paucity of time, an official said.
The announcement, however, drew a sharp reaction from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Sabujkali Sen, officiating vice-chancellor of the university, said there were previous instances when the award had been conferred to international dignitaries not at the annual convocation, but during special convocation programmes organised by the university.
"For the time being, the award ceremony is being deferred due to paucity of time. In the 60s too, the award was not conferred due to paucity of time. It was later conferred to eminent personalities," Mr Sen told reporters at Santiniketan.
The West Bengal chief minister, however, expressed "unhappiness" over the decision and said she was "shocked".
In April, the Visva-Bharati academic council had proposed to honour Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, author Amitav Ghosh, poet Gulzar, writer Suniti Kumar Pathak, Rabidra Sangeet exponent Dwijen Mukherjee, physicist Ashok Sen and painter Jogen Chowdhury with the 'Desikottam' award.
The university executive council had approved the names in May.
Ms Banerjee, who arrived at Santiniketan today, said, "I am unhappy. Those who were supposed to get the award were not getting it. Amitabh Bachchan's name was there, Dwijen Mukherjee's name was there. They are above politics. They deserve it (the Desikottam). They should have got it".
"I do not want to go into the reasons why they are not getting the award. I am shocked," she said.
The chief minister said it was not new for her to attend the (Visva-Bharati) convocation.
"This time I have come here as the prime ministers of India and Bangladesh will be there. The convocation is not the place for doing politics. And Visva-Bharati is our pride," she asserted.