Cong steps back from govt, says no Padma to tainted

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 28 2010, 03:23am hrs
Against the backdrop of US-based hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal getting a Padma Bhushan, the Congress on Tuesday said these awards should be given to people who enhance its prestige and not to those with a taint.

We are not talking of any specific case. But these awards should be given to people who enhance its prestige and not to those who have a taint, party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said when asked about the row over the selection of Chatwal, who was earlier chargesheeted by the CBI in a fraud case. The award should be given to people whose integrity is not doubtful, Ahmed said.

BJP deputy leader of the Opposition Gopinath Munde had on Monday written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding that the award to Chatwal be taken back. He argued that due to Chatwals alleged controversial financial dealings, he did not deserve the honour.

The Padma awards are decided by the home ministry after a due process. They might have their reasons for it. Only the ministry could explain it, the Congress spokesman said.

He said for these awards, names come from various state governments and other quarters to the home ministry. The lists are assessed and then shortlisted, he said.

Chatwal, who is considered close to former US President Bill Clinton and his wife and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, was earlier chargesheeted by the CBI in an alleged $9-million fraud case.

Chatwal, however, said he was thrilled and grateful to the Indian government that after such a long time they have really recognised his services towards strengthening Indo-US ties.

I have really no idea about the BJPs objection. I love my country and have been working for the past 30 years. I dont care for the parties. They will come and go, said Chatwal.

Chatwal said he was grateful to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has recognised my efforts and services for this award.

Chatwal is one of the 13 non-resident Indians to be given Padma awards on the occasion of the Republic Day. He had recently announced that his Hampshire Hotels chain would set up 25 hotels in India by 2011.