The decision to defer this year’s National Awards until the completion of the Lok Sabha elections has left people in the film industry and sections of the government confused.
According to inside information, the National Award jury, headed by Rahul Rawail, was in the last stages of deliberation about the winners when they received a call from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, asking the jury to adjourn the discussions until after the Lok Sabha elections.
“This is unprecedented and shocking,” says a prominent artiste closely associated with the BJP and also a past member of the National Awards jury. “It is very wrong to defer the National Awards, including the highly prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award, until after the elections. The dates of the National Awards are as inviolable as the Padma Awards for Republic Day. So many elections have taken place before. The National awards were never postponed. What are you trying to say? That perhaps a couple of awards are not in keeping with the BJP’s interests? They are putting the onus of the postponement on the Election Commission. But the fact is, the order to defer the National Awards came from the I & B Ministry. The jury had no option but to comply. What about the autonomy of the jury?” the source wonders aloud.
When contacted, jury head Rahul Rawail pleaded helplessness. “The decision had nothing to do with us. We were in the final stages of deliberation (as to who would win) when we were told to stop and we did. It is not our duty to question the decision of the Election Commission.”
Rahul says there is no clear indication on when the National Award jury would re-assemble.
Sudhir Mishra, who has quite a few National Awards, feels the postponement is not improper.
“The Lok Sabha elections are far more important to the country than the National Awards. How does it hurt the National Awards if they are pushed ahead by a couple of weeks? As far as I am concerned, the Election Commission is well within its rights to defer the National Awards. Why create a fuss about it? Neither awards nor the winners are running away anywhere.” When asked how the National Awards could affect the Lok Sabha elections, Sudhir Mishra is as stumped as everyone else.