Government of India, Padma Awards, Padma Shri, Politics, Stories

Data suggests that more Padma Shri Awards are given in Election Years


In the recent times, the Padma Awards have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. It is alleged that the various governments at the center have used these awards for political reasons. Data about the Padma Shri Awards from the last 60 years suggests that the number of awards were unusually high in the election years.


Padma Awards were instituted in the year 1954. Except for brief interruptions during the years 1978 and 1979 and 1993 to 1997, these awards have been announced every year on Republic Day.  The award is given in three categories, namely, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri.

  • Padma Vibhushan for ‘exceptional and distinguished service’.
  • Padma Bhushan for ‘distinguished service of a high order’.
  • Padma Shri is awarded for ‘distinguished service’.

The award seeks to recognize work of any distinction and is given for distinguished and exceptional achievements or service in all fields of activities or disciplines, such as Art, Literature and Education, Sports, Medicine, Social Work, Science and Engineering, Public Affairs, Civil Service, Trade and Industry etc.

Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian award given by the Indian government after the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan.

The total number of awards to be given in a year (excluding posthumous awards and to foreigners) should not be more than 120.

What about the Padma Shri Awards over the Years?

While there is reason to believe that all fields should be equally represented, some fields have seen their share awards represented rather disproportionately than what you would expect. The data of the last 60 years makes for interesting reading. The chart below gives the details of Padma Shri’s grouped by their categories.


Arts has claimed more of these awards than any other category. Arts is followed Literature & Education, Medicine, Science & Engineering etc. Journalism is last in the list of number of Padma Shri awardees.

Was Arts always the preferred choice for Awards?

While Arts as a category has more than 600 Padma Shri awardees, this was not always the case. Arts became the dominant category only after 1984. Until then, it was a mixed bag with different categories winning more awards in different years. Since 1984, Arts has been the dominant category in almost every year.

padma_shri_awards_padma_shri_awards_by_category padma_shri_awards_arts_over_the_years

Most Padma Shri Awards were given in Election Years

The interesting part of the data is the rise in the number of Padma Shri awards over the years. What are even more fascinating are the sharp peaks. Almost all the peaks occur in the election years.


What could be the reasons for the Sharp Peaks?

Recommendations for these awards are usually solicited from all State/UT Governments, etc.  Date for calling nominations and the cutoff date for receipt of nomination/recommendation is usually 1st May and 15th September respectively. The winners are declared on or before the Republic Day every year. It could be entirely possible that the party in power at the center is trying to win over allies in the states by giving more awards for a particular state.

(This is the first of a two part series. The second part of this series will look at the last few election years and the Padma Shri awards during those years.)

Data and Code are here.

The Author also blogs at The Dummy Variable


About Author

Satish is a data scientist and an open data enthusiast living in Boston. While not moonlighting as a technology manager, he feeds his passion for economics and politics by combing through data and coming up with interesting insights…at least some of the time. He blogs at

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