Was Thinking About Naveen: Gita Mehta After Declining Padma Shri

New Delhi: Acclaimed writer and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s elder sister Gita Mehta on Monday said she did not wish to cause the CM any embarrassment by accepting the Padma Shri at a sensitive time when elections are approaching.

Talking to Hindustan Times, she said that Naveen was in her mind when she declined the honour. Gita, who is currently at a hospital in New York, said she had no inclination about the nomination till she came to know about it from her husband, well known publisher, Sonny Mehta.

“I was of course thinking of my brother, not wishing to cause him any embarrassment at a sensitive time – or even face accusations that nepotism might have been brought to bear to get me the award, so with great regret I declined. It is unfortunate that I was not able to do so before my name was published, as I do not wish to seem ungrateful for the honour the Government of India wished to bestow on me,” she said.

She, however, regretted the fact that she was nominated under the foreigner category, saying “I am an Indian citizen and carry no other passport or nationality”.

Gita was conferred the Padma Shri on the eve of the Republic Day. But she declined to accept the honour. In a statement issued within hours of the announcement, she had questioned the timing of the award, noting that there is a general election looming and the timing of the award might be misconstrued.

When asked by Hindustan Times if the awards committee had checked with her before the announcement, Gita answered in negative. “As I am currently in a hospital, I was not able to be contacted. I was not aware that my name was under consideration until my husband informed me that the press had already published my name, while the external affairs ministry was trying to get in touch with me”.

She, however, clarified that she was not against writers and artists receiving the awards even if she had declined it because such awards remind the world of the importance of culture. “National awards are (however) always open to subjective reactions”, she added.

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