New Delhi: Odisha Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, on Monday came out in support of his sister Gita Mehta’s decision of turning down Padma Shri Award and said that his sister has right to decline. Author Gita Mehta was named among the Padma Shri awardees this year. Also Read - Unlock 6: Odisha Schools to Remain Shut Till Nov 30 But Classes For 9-12 to Resume From Nov 16 | Read Guidelines

The US-based author had turned down the award. She cited the reason that there is a general election looming and the timing might be misconstrued. Also Read - Odisha Government Extends COVID-19 Lockdown in Containment Zones Till November 30

Talking to news agency ANI, Naveen Patnaik said, “My sister has the right to do whatever she desires.” Also Read - After Odisha, Rare Bright Yellow Turtle Found In West Bengal; Pictures Stun The Internet

Mehta said, “Deeply honoured that the Government should think me worthy of a Padma Shri but with great regret, I decline it as there is a general election looming and the timing might be misconstrued, causing embarrassment both to the Government and me, which I would much regret.” (Also read: Union Minister Hits Back at Patnaik For Calling Ujjwala Scheme a Failure)

Media reports had claimed that Gita and her husband, publisher Sonny Mehta, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was seen as the BJP’s attempt to cosy up to Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Naveen Patnaik before general elections.

Patnaik, much like his Telangana counterpart K Chandrashekar Rao, has been under attack by the Opposition for being soft on the BJP. Patnaik had been conspicuous with his absence from the mega opposition rally in Kolkata on January 19.

On January 9, Naveen Patnaik had announced that his party would not be a part of the mahagathbandhan. “The BJD will not be part of the ‘Mahagathabandhan’. The party will continue to remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress,” had said Patnaik.