The shocking deferment of this year’s National Awards until the completion of the Lok Sabha elections has left the film industry and sections of the government shell-shocked. 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 till after the Lok Sabha elections.
“This is unprecedented and shocking,” says a prominent artiste closely associated with the BJP and a member of the National Awards jury during an earlier year. “It is very wrong to defer the National Awards, including the highly prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award, for 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. But the fact is, the order to defer the National Swards came from the I & B ministry. The jury had no option but to comply.” the source wonders loudly.
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. We did. That’s it. It is not our right to question the decision of the Election Commission.” Rawail says there is no clear indication on when the National Award jury would re-assemble.Sudhir Mishra, who is a regular winner of 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.”