Of Tendulkar, Bharat Ratna and populism
It’s rare for politicians to be of one mind in the world’s biggest and arguably the noisiest democracy.
The government is about to tweak guidelines to make sportspersons (read Sachin Tendulkar) eligible for India’s highest civilian award — the Bharat Ratna.
BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi and V.K. Malhotra were among the first to demand the honour for “India’s favourite son” who is said to be, at least statistically, the greatest cricketer of all time.
So it was hardly a surprise when Sports Minister Ajay Maken recommended a change in existing guidelines to include sports for the prestigious award, which till now was for “exceptional service towards advancement of art, literature and science, and in recognition of public service of the highest order”.
This is not the first time the government went out of the way to reward the Indian batting maestro and indulge in populism.
In 2003, it had promptly agreed when Tendulkar asked for a waiver of customs duty on an imported Ferrari which he got as a gift for equalling Don Bradman’s 29 test hundreds.
While Tendulkar is the overwhelming favourite to become the first sportsperson to win the Bharat Ratna, he does face some competition.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is among those who believe hockey legend Dhyan Chand should get it ahead of Tendulkar.
Few, however, see that happening.