Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that his sister, writer Gita Mehta, has every right to decline the Padma Shri award. Ms Mehta, who is based in the US, turned down the prestigious award conferred upon her by the government on Friday, citing its timing ahead of the national elections due by May.
"My sister has a right to do whatever she desires," Mr Patnaik told reporters in Delhi.
In a statement from New York on Saturday, Gita Mehta said: "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."
Ms Mehta was named for the Padma Shri in the "Foreigners" category for her outstanding contribution to the field of art and literature.
Months before the government announcement of a Padma Shri award for Gita Mehta, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reached out to her and had a 90-minute meeting with her and her husband, publisher Sonny Mehta, at his residence in Delhi.
Insiders said this could have been the BJP's charm offensive for Naveen Patnaik ahead of 2019 elections, even though the party has not stopped its political attacks on his Biju Janata Dal.
Today, Mr Patnaik rubbished the allegations of Congress president Rahul Gandhi that he was remote-controlled by PM Modi for his government's involvement in corruption."Bilkul bakwaas (absolute trash)," Mr Patnaik said.
(With inputs from IANS)
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