NEW DELHI: Soon after former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya declined the Padma award, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday took a veiled dig at party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad who was also conferred with the award.
"Right thing to do. He wants to be Azad not Ghulam," Ramesh said on Twitter after Bhattacharya 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.
After it was announced that Bhattacharya has been awarded the Padma Bhushan, the country's third-highest award, the veteran CPI(M) leader said he was rejecting it.
"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," he said in a statement.
Official sources said the Union Home Ministry informed the wife of ailing Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee about the government's decision to give him Padma Bhushan before announcing his name and no one from his family objected to it.
Veteran CPI(M) leader and former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday refused to accept the Padma Bhushan award, kicking off a political controversy.
"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.
However, official sources said the Union Home Ministry informed the wife of the ailing veteran leader about the government's decision to give him the Padma Bhushan before announcing his name early Tuesday morning, and no one from his family objected to it.
Bhattacharjee's wife told the top official that she would inform him about it.
After which no one from his family got back to the home ministry to inform that he was unwilling to accept the Padma award.
Usually the norm is that the central government seeks the concurrence of an awardee before announcing his name for the Padma award.
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Hindutva poster boy late Kalyan Singh and India's first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat who died in a helicopter crash recently, were awarded Padma Vibhushan on Tuesday, while veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and CPI(M) leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee were named for the Padma Bhushan.
While explaining the reasons behind his refusal, the CPI(M) said the party's policy was not to accept such state awards.
"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.
The 77-year-old communist patriarch, one of the tallest leaders of the Bengal CPI(M), was chief minister of West Bengal from 2000-2011.
He is currently unwell suffering from age-related problems.
According to CPI(M) sources, the decision to forgo the award was one taken by both Bhattacharjee and the party.
"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.
While reacting to Bhattacharjee's refusal, BJP national vice president Dilip Ghosh said it was his personal decision.
"The country had decided to honour him. Now it is up to him to decide on whether he wants to accept it or not," he said.
However, the Trinamool Congress claimed the nexus between the CPI (M) and BJP stands exposed as Bhattacharjee made no contributions that deserved an award.
"Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will be remembered for Nandigram and Singur forcible land acquisition. This decision by the BJP government to confer Padma Bhushan only exposes the CPI(M) and BJP's tacit understanding in West Bengal," TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said.