Olympians PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik, Paralympian Deepa Malik, Google chief Sundar Pichai, Microsoft head Satya Nadella, and Indian American governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina are among 150 eminent personalities shortlisted for this year’s Padma awards.
Maratha strongman and NCP leader Sharad Pawar and BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi are among the politicians who made it to the coveted list.
Pawar is widely respected across the political spectrum. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi attended his 75th birthday celebration at the Capital’s Vigyan Bhawan auditorium in 2015.
The 83-year-old former Union minister Joshi is a member of the ruling BJP’s “margdarshak mandal”, a party advisory panel comprising its elders.
The awards will be announced, like every year, on the eve of Republic Day.
The prestigious awards invoke interest and controversy alike, as the selection process involved a close group — the Union or state governments, organisations such as the Board of Control for Cricket in India, former awardees, and politicians.
This triggered allegations of a crony culture of influence and lobbying.
But the government opened the nomination process this year for public scrutiny to make it transparent. Any Indian can now recommend an achiever for the Padma awards, which were until now being a prerogative of a select few.
Union minister Nitin Gadkari described a fortnight ago the awards has become a headache and that he was being “chased”. He said veteran actress Asha Parekh climbed 12 floors to meet him and lobby for the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award.
To be sure, the yesteryear screen queen, a Padma Shri recipient, has made it to the shortlist. HT has reviewed a copy of the list.
By the order of precedence, Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian honour after Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan.
Besides Parekh, others on the shortlist in the entertainment category are Shankar Mahadevan, Rishi Kapoor, Sonu Nigam, Kailash Kher and Manoj Bajpayee.
Dancer Lakshmi Viswanathan, Kumaoni folk artiste Basanti Bisht, craftsman Mohammed Yusef Khatri and Kathakali exponent CK Nair represent the art world.
The government curtailed the number to 150 from a list of 1,730 nominations.
“The government will finalise the list this week and a few names might get dropped if the Intelligence Bureau and other agencies don’t give a favorable opinion (on nominees),” a senior government official said.
The nominations are sent to these agencies for fact-check and feedback. The cleared names are then placed before the Padma awards committee constituted by the Prime Minister.
Since 1954, the government has conferred its highest honours — from the venerable Padma Shri to the exclusive Bharat Ratna — to 4,329 personalities from the bureaucracy, arts, science, sports and politics.
With 797 awards, the national capital has the highest number of recipients than any other state. Maharashtra is a close second with 756, including eight Bharat Ratnas such as Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar. Tamil Nadu is third with 391 awards.