US-based writer Gita Mehta has turned down the prestigious Padma Shri citing the timing of the announcement. Gita, who is also the sister of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and daughter of former CM Biju Patnaik, was selected for distinguished contribution to literature and education.
She said her selection for Padma Shri could be "misconstrued... with a general election looming".
It is to be noted that the Lok Sabha elections are due in April-May and Odisha is expected to play a critical role in Narendra Modi's ambition to become the Prime Minister again.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is expecting a loss in support in the Hindi speaking belt, is leaving no stone unturned to tap in the potential in the non-Hindi speaking region. Apparently, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) of Naveen Patnaik and the BJP are fighting for political supremacy in the region.
The BJP has gained significantly in the recently concluded panchayat elections in the state. The recent step by the centre to confer Gita Mehta Padma Shri is seen as another step by the BJP to lure voters from Odisha.
NDTV has reported that a month before the centre announced Padma Shri for Gita, PM Modi had invited her and her husband Sunny Mehta, a known publisher, for a 90-minute meeting.
There were speculations that PM Modi might ask the couple to work on his story as Sunny in past has published the works of various US presidents that sold millions of copies. Sunny has published best-selling books of Barack Obama and many other prominent political leaders including Tony Blair six Nobel prize winners.