During Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, his finance committee refused to accept any contribution from controversial hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, because of the latter’s “background and baggage”, a member of his campaign finance committee told Hindustan Times.
Included among the list of Padma Bhushan awardees this year, Chatwal confirmed that he would personally visit India to collect his award. “Absolutely. I’m going,” he said.
Chatwal’s proximity to Bill and Hillary Clinton is well known. But after Hillary Clinton — now US secretary of state — conceded defeat to Obama in the race to become the Democrats’ nominee for the White House, Chatwal had offered to organise a $10 million (Rs 45 crore) fundraising event for Obama. The offer was politely turned down.
“The campaign people were very unhappy after Chatwal made that announcement,” Obama’s finance committee member said. “They did not take any money from him because of his background and baggage.”
Asked about the controversy over his selection, Chatwal said: “These are all political things. I know exactly what I’ve done for India for the last 30 years.”
The award to Chatwal became controversial following the revelation that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered five cases -- related to defrauding banks – against him between 1992 and 1994.
Three of the cases were closed, while Chatwal was acquitted in the other two.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has questioned the propriety of honouring such a man.