Former West Bengal CM, Bengali singer turn down Padma Awards

New Delhi, January 26 (KMS): Veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has turned down the Padma Bhushan award, as has Bengali 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.

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.

“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.

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.

‘Extremely demeaning’

A playback singer of great popularity, Sandhya Mukherjee, through her daughter Soumi Sengupta refused the award, saying, “To confer a Padma Shri to a legend like her at the age of 90 is extremely demeaning”.