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New Delhi: Veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has turned down the Padma Bhushan award, as has Bengal singer Sandhya Mukherjee.
“I know nothing about this award. No one has told me anything about it. If they have decided to offer Padma Bhushan to me, I refuse to accept it,” Bhattacharjee said in a statement.
Until the time he took a backseat from active politics due to ill health, and even afterwards, Bhattacharjee has been a vocal critic of the Narendra Modi government.
The Union home ministry has claimed that an official called Bhattacharjee’s residence and informed his wife about the government’s decision. News agencies ANI and PTI have reported, citing unnamed sources within the ministry, that Bhattacharjee’s family did not object to the award and that no one from his family got back to the home ministry to inform that he was unwilling to accept the Padma award, respectively.
PTI has further reported that the norm is that the Union government seeks the concurrence of an awardee before announcing a name for the Padma award.
The 77-year-old communist leader was chief minister of West Bengal from 2000-2011. The CPI(M) has backed his refusal on Twitter and to the media.
Com. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who was nominated for the Padma Bhushan award has declined to accept it. The CPI(M) policy has been consistent in declining such awards from the State. Our work is for the people not for awards. Com EMS who was earlier offered an award had declined it. pic.twitter.com/fTmkkzeABl
— CPI (M) (@cpimspeak) January 25, 2022
“Comrade Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who was nominated for the Padma Bhushan award has declined to accept it. The CPI(M) policy has been consistent in declining such awards from the State. Our work is for the people not for awards. Comrade EMS (Namboodiripad) who was earlier offered an award had declined it.” the CPI(M) tweeted.
“Communists don’t hanker after state awards. Earlier, Jyoti Basu had refused Bharat Ratna when his name was doing rounds in 2008. So this was expected,” CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty said.
Echoing him, CPI (M) leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said accepting an award from a government “dividing people into communal lines” was out of the question.
Party leaders Sitaram Yechury and Surjya Kanta Mishra have also tweeted that Bhattacharjee does not wish to be contacted further on his decision.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has asked me to request everybody including government officials not to call/visit him in this matter.
All official contacts may kindly be made in his residential/ CPIM) WB State Committee address by postal correspondence considering his health condition. https://t.co/YdFUM5Lmlj
— Surjya Kanta Mishra (@mishra_surjya) January 25, 2022
Meanwhile, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh took a veiled dig at party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad who is another opposition party leader conferred with the award.
“Right thing to do. He wants to be Azad not Ghulam,” Ramesh said on Twitter, after Bhattacharjee declined the Padma award.
Veteran Congress leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was part of the group of 23 which has been critical of the party leadership and has sought an organisational overhaul, has also been awarded the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to public affairs.
Right thing to do. He wants to be Azad not Ghulam. https://t.co/iMWF00S9Ib
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) January 25, 2022
A playback singer of great popularity, Sandhya Mukherjee, through her daughter Soumi Sengupta refused the award, telling India Today, “To confer a Padma Shri to a legend like her at the age of 90 is extremely demeaning”.
Sengupta added that the decision was not politically motivated.
In 2011, Sandhya Mukherjee received the Banga Bibhusan, the highest civilian honour given by the West Bengal government.