Mumbai/New Delhi: Amid a row over Pakistani-origin singer Adnan Sami, who became an Indian citizen in 2016, being chosen for the Padma Shri, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday termed it as an "insult" to the 130 crore Indians and a "damage control" act by the NDA government "facing questions" over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR).
Maharashtra Minorities Development Minister and NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that any Pakistani citizen can now avail Indian citizenship by chanting 'Jai Modi'.
Sami, born in London to a Pakistani Air force veteran, applied for Indian citizenship in 2015 and became a citizen of the country in January 2016. He was one of the 118 people whose names were announced on Saturday for the Padma Shri awards, with the Ministry of Home Affairs list showing his home state as Maharashtra.
"If anyone from Pakistan chants 'Jai Modi', he can now get citizenship of India as well as a Padma Shri award. Selection of Sami for the award is a damage control exercise," said Malik.
The NCP leader later tweeted that many Indian Muslims deserved the honours conferred by the country.
"Conferring the prestigious #PadmaShri award to #AdnanSami is an insult to 130 Cr Indians. #NDA govt is trying to do damage control on the questions raised by Indians and people around the world on the issue of #CAA, #NRC and #NPR," he tweeted.
Malik said the selection of Sami was an act to "cover up" the problems created by the government for the society in general.
"There are many Indian Muslims who deserve the honours conferred by our country. By giving #Padmashri to #Sami this current govt is trying to show that they are fair but in reality this is just a cover up to the problems they have created for large sections of Indian society," he tweeted.
The Congress and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had already objected to Sami's selection for the prestigious award.
BJP counters opposition
The BJP on Monday hit out at opposition parties over their criticism of the government's decision to confer the Padma Shri on Sami, wondering if they only like those Muslims who are "against" Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India and its institutions.
Addressing a press conference here, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra referred to the opposition criticism of the government for honouring Sami even though his father served in the Pakistan air force.
Countering the criticism, Patra raked up the alleged association of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's father with Italian dictator Mussolini and Germany's Hitler to ask why she was given Indian citizenship.
There was no immediate response from the Congress on the BJP's charge.
Patra asserted that Sami is "highly deserving" and was given the Padma honour on merit. He also referred to Sami's mother Naureen Khan's background as a resident of Jammu to target the Congress, asking if the party does not respect Muslim women from the region.