New Delhi: Author Gita Mehta, whose name was among the Padma Shri awardees this year, has turned it down, said reports on Saturday. The US-based author is also Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s sister. (Click Here for Live Updates on Republic Day 2019 Parade) Also Read - ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India to Set up Mega Steel Plant in Odisha at Rs 50,000 Crore

In a statement, Mehta wrote, “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 - From PM Modi to Amit Shah: Top Leaders Who Received Jabs On Day 1 of Stage II COVID Vaccine Drive

Reports say that months before the honour was conferred on her, Gita and her husband, publisher Sonny Mehta, had reportedly met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a 90-minute meeting, which was seen as the BJP’s attempt to cosy up to Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Naveen Patnaik before general elections. Also Read - CHSE Odisha Plus Two Exam Datesheet For Class 12th Released, Check Dates Here

That meeting was necessitated by PM Modi’s desperate attempt to get Mehta’s US phone number and speak to her. A couple of weeks later, the Mehtas, who were on one of their several trips to the country, returned the call and fixed an appointment with the Prime Minister.

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 his part, Patnaik has said his party would have no truck with either the BJP of the Congress. Earlier this month, while in the national capital, Patnaik had said his party would remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress. The way the Centre and the Odisha government had been going at each other, it was almost a given that Patnaik would rather side with the ‘Mahagathbandhan’.

With Patnaik making his intent clear, the Congress insisted on calling the BJD only the BJP’s ‘B Team’.