Controversial Indian American hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal has accused Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of playing politics in questioning the award of Padma Bhushan to him in Republic Day honours.
"I have been awarded the 'Ellis Island Medal of Honour', which is only given after the United States Government makes sure that there is nothing against a person," said Chatwal in response to BJP's demand for stripping him of India's third highest civilian honour.
The Ellis Island Medal of Honor established in 1986 to pay tribute to the immigrant experience and individual achievement, is recognised by the US House of Representatives and the Senate, and as such the names of all winners are listed in the Congressional Record.
Chatwal, who was earlier charge-sheeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly committing a $9 million fraud on the State Bank of India, said in a statement he had been cleared of all allegations of wrongdoing.
Referring to the contribution he had made to India-US relations, especially the political doors that his efforts had opened with the Democratic Party establishment in the US, Chatwal said he was thrilled and grateful to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for recognising "my efforts and services for this award".
"I have really no idea about BJP's objection. I love my country and have been working for the past 30 years. I don't care for the parties. They will come and go," said Chatwal, considered close to former US President Bill Clinton and his wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Chatwal's rejoinder was in response to a letter written by Gopinath Munde, the BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha to the president and prime minister seeking withdrawal of the award to Chatwal because of his controversial financial dealings.
Chatwal is one of the 13 Non-resident Indians to be given Padma awards on the occasion of Republic Day this year. He had recently announced that his Hampshire Hotels chain would set up 25 hotels in India by 2011.