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Odisha CM's sister Gita Mehta declines to accept Padma Shri citing election year

twitter-logoPTI | January 26, 2019 | Updated 20:27 IST

(Eds: Incorporating fresh inputs, reactions) Bhubaneswar, Jan 26 (PTI) Eminent writer Gita Mehta, who is Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's elder sister, on Saturday declined to accept the Padma Shri award, saying its timing could be "misconstrued" in an election year. Mehta, 76, will be awarded the Padma Shri in the field of literature and education, the Centre had announced on Friday. "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," Mehta, who is the sibling of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief and daughter of former CM Biju Patnaik, said in a statement from New York. Elections to Lok Sabha as well as the Odisha Assembly are due to be held together this year. Mehta's declining of the Padma award, however, triggered a row in the state with the BJP saying her action was "not appropriate" and the Congress claiming that the whole episode showed the close links between the ruling BJD and the BJP. Prominent among the books authored by Mehta are 'Karma Cola', 'A River Sutra', 'Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India' and 'Eternal Ganesha: From Birth to Rebirth'. The writer, wife of publisher Sonny Mehta, has also produced/directed 14 documentaries. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik side-stepped a question about her refusal to accept the honour but congratulated all those from Odisha who have been chosen for the award. "I congratulate all the Odias who got the Padma award," he told mediapersons here. General Secretary of BJP Odisha unit Prithviraj Harichandan said it is up to an individual whether to accept an award but refusing a national award amounts to disrespect of the President of India. "It is not appropriate to turn down a national award," he said. State Congress working president Pradip Majhi said the move is to save the BJD from embarrassment. "Her (Mehta's) refusal is aimed to prevent the tacit understanding between BJD and BJP from being exposed," he said. Another Congress leader claimed the announcement was made apparently to keep Patnaik in good humour ahead of the elections. Congress President Rahul Gandhi during his visit here on Friday had accused Patnaik of being "remote controlled" by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Dismissing the opposition claims, BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb said the refusal to accept the honour is Mehta's personal decision and there should not be unnecessary discussion on the issue. "She (Mehta) should not be unnecessarily dragged into controversy," Deb added. PTI SKN KK RT

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