Renaming Khel Ratna award political game: Shiv Sena

Renaming Khel Ratna award not people's wish, but political game: Shiv Sena

India's highest sporting honour Khel Ratna Award, which was named after former PM Rajiv Gandhi, was on Friday rechristened

Modi pays floral tribute to Major Dhyan Chand. Credit: PTI Photo

The Shiv Sena on Monday claimed the Centre's decision to rename the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award after hockey legend Dhyan Chand was not the people's wish, but a "political game".

An editorial in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana also asked what was Prime Minister Narendra Modi's contribution to cricket that a stadium (in Ahmedabad) was named after him.

India's highest sporting honour Khel Ratna Award, which was named after former PM Rajiv Gandhi, was on Friday rechristened in the honour of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand, following the admirable performance of both men's and women's hockey teams in the Tokyo Olympics.

Read more: Khel Ratna Award renamed as Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award

Making the announcement, Prime Minister Modi said he had been getting many requests from citizens across India to name the Khel Ratna Award after Major Dhyan Chand.

On Monday, the editorial in Saamana said late prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were victims of terror acts.

There could be political differences with leaders like them, but their sacrifices towards the country's development cannot be mocked, it opined.

"Changing the name of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award to Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award is not the people's wish, but a political game,” it claimed.

"Major Dhyan Chand could have been honoured without insulting Rajiv Gandhi's sacrifice. But, the country has lost such tradition and culture. It would have made Dhyan Chand sad in heaven," the Sena said.

It said just because the Modi government changed the name of the award does not mean earlier governments had forgotten Dhyan Chand. It is not a great honour for Dhyan Chand to use his name for the award by replacing it with the name of Rajiv Gandhi, who had made "supreme sacrifice for the country", the Sena said.

"Removing Rajiv Gandhi's name (from the award) is political hatred," it claimed.

The Marathi publication said the question raised by some BJP leaders about whether Rajiv Gandhi ever held a hockey stick in his hands was valid.

"People are also asking what Narendra Modi has done for cricket that a stadium in Ahmedabad is named after him by replacing the (earlier) name of Sardar Patel,” it said. The same yardstick should have be applied while renaming a Delhi stadium (Feroz Shah Kotla) after (late BJP leader) Arun Jaitely. People are also asking these questions, the Sena said.

The editorial also claimed that while the Modi government was celebrating India's wins at the just-concluded Olympic Games, it had cut down the sports budget by Rs 300 crore. When the Sahara Group withdrew sponsorship of the men's and women's hockey teams, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik accepted their guardianship, it stated.

"Hence, the Odisha government's contribution is equally important in the (men's) hockey team's win (at the Olympics)," it added. When Khashaba Jadhav had won the first individual Olympic medal (bronze) for the country, why no one thought of setting up a 'Khel Ratna' award in his name? the Sena asked.