Once upon a time, Padma awards used to be bagged by rich and powerful in the country. Or at least those who have deeper connect with the ruling establishments. I am careful not to use the word, ruling party. Establishment means those who can get things done, through backdoor contacts. Only a few socialites, film stars or wealthy men and women were used to “manage to have” them.
There used to be brokers and sub-brokers for Padma awards. We have heard stories about how some film stars lobbied hard and got the honours, which are meant for genuine personalities in different fields. But, nobody bothered because; we all thought that Padma awards are meant only to the well-connected people. CMs used to write recommendation letters.
But, after Narendra Modi came to power eight years ago, the trend has changed. Most of those who got Padmas – including Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri – are unsung heroes, great contributors to their own fields but less influential. Take Kinnera instrumental musician and singer Mogulaiah from Telangana, his selection for Padma Shri this year is a real surprise.
Of course, he was picked to get a small tune for Jana Sena president Pawan Kalyan’s upcoming movie, Bheelma Naik, but Mogulaiah is not known to many. Belonging to a sub-caste of scheduled castes, Mogulaiah is neither patronised by the powerful politicians or enjoys connections in New Delhi. He may not even know the meaning of a Padma Shri and how to use it for his benefit.
Not only he, Ramachandraiah, a tribal artist from erstwhile Khammam district or dozens of such humble people who were picked up for these awards for the last seven years, stand as testimony to this new trend. As a result, people are now searching in Google for the details of these unsung heroes, a very healthy trend indeed.
Of course, there are some political sparks too – Congress dissident leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee – being picked for Padma honours this year. By this, the BJP at the Centre wants to convey a message to people that they are ready to reach out to its political opponents too, in case it serves its own interests.