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Chatwal:Nobody can stop me from getting the award

By Aziz Haniifa
February 05, 2010 12:58 IST
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Notwithstanding the controversy swirling around his being awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India, a defiant Sant Singh Chatwal -- the flamboyant New York-based hotelier who is a confidante of Bill and Hillary Clinton -- has vowed he will not succumb to any pressure not to accept the award, slated to be presented at a ceremony in New Delhi next month.

"I have absolutely no intention of not accepting the award," he asserted. "Never, never, never in my life. People like the prime minister of India, they have recognised my work. I worked for over 30 years promoting US-India relations. So why in the world will I give up this award?" he told

Chatwal blasted the Bharatiya Janata Party for demanding that the award be withdrawn because of his controversial financial dealings and pointed out that he was pained to see this kind of campaign from a party whose leaders he said he had introduced to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

"I am the one who introduced President Clinton to (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee when he was prime minister. I met him three times when he was prime minister in the prime minister's house and I took President Clinton to meet him. I am the one who got him the dinner invitation from President Clinton in the White House," he said.

Chatwal said at the time he took Clinton to India to meet with Vajpayee, "I also took him (Clinton) for tea with (L K) Advani when he was the home minister. So they always wanted to take a favour. I am the one who took Clinton after 24 years to India when Vajpayee was prime minister. They welcomed him. You were there, you know that."

"This is very disappointing to find the BJP now saying these things because I did a lot for the BJP -- bringing Clinton to India -- and then having the largest White House dinner for Vajpayee -- over 700 people. We did it. At the last minute we had to put a tent outside (on the south lawn of the White House) for this largest dinner in the White House. I invited 100 people myself."

Chatwal said a few days before the state dinner for Vajpayee, "Bill Clinton was at my home for dinner and Vajpayee was very, very happy that Bill Clinton had come to my home. He called me and thanked me four, five times."

"I don't care about the BJP. Nobody can stop me from getting the award. One thousand percent, I am going to accept the award," he emphasised. "They cannot stand in front of me and say these things. I am ready to go forward and fight with the BJP."

Gopinath Munde, the BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, has written to President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, expressing strong disapproval over the government's decision to award Chatwal the Padma Bhushan and asking that it be withdrawn.

"I am very happy the home ministry for the first time, for a change, they released a statement saying due diligence was taken and supporting the award for me," Chatwal said.

The government defended its decision to award Chatwal the Padma Bhushan on January 27, saying 'the Padma awards are conferred only after consideration in terms of the guidelines regulating the award and after observance of established and elaborate procedures.'

'No Padma award is conferred except on the recommendation of the awards committee constituted for the purpose and after due diligence has been done,' it added.

The government said the cases filed against Chatwal between 1992 and 1994 had been closed and 'as per available records, there are no adverse reports against Chatwal.'

Earlier, Chatwal had told on receiving news that he was one of the awardees that "In India, you don't get an award (like the Padma Bhushan) until and unless you've been 101 percent cleared, and I have been (cleared) of every damn thing by the American government, the federal government, by the judge -- everything. And the same thing has been done -- investigated in India and cleared a long time back."

"Believe me, nothing goes through without the home ministry clearing (the honoree's name) from every agency -- CBI, intelligence, you name every agency," he had added then.

The government in citing one of the reasons for Chatwal receiving the prestigious civilian honour, described him as 'an active member of the NRI community in the United States who helped in securing support for the nuclear deal among members of the US Congress.'

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Aziz Haniifa in Washington, DC