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By Gulu Ezekiel
Trust our politicians to jump on the bandwagon and bask in reflected glory after Sachin Tendulkar’s latest world record feat.
With both the ruling Congress party in Maharashtra and the Shiv Sena endorsing awarding the Bharat Ratna to Tendulkar, we will no doubt see many more politicians adding their support to this movement. Now every Indian cricketer too is being asked his opinion on the subject. Dare even one of them disagree?
What is most amusing is that it is the same Shiv Sena who had roundly condemned Tendulkar just a few months back after the maestro had made the innocuous and obvious comment at a press conference that Mumbai is for all Indians.
At the outset let me state my opinion which is that Sachin is indeed a jewel of Indian cricket.
But these national awards have long since lost their lustre as the ruling party at the Centre invariably awards them to favourites of the party, irrespective of the individual’s achievements or merit.
Every party in the opposition will condemn such meaningless awards. But no politician is willing to start a campaign to scrap them altogether which is exactly what needs to be done.
As far as I am concerned, the Bharat Ratna lost is value back in the 80s when the Congress party in power granted it posthumously to late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MG Ramachandran simply because his party, the AIADMK was at the time supporting the Congress at the Centre.
Tendulkar has received every national and sporting award from the Arjuna to the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Padma Vibhushan. Only the Bharat Ratna remains, the highest civilian honour in the land.
But why only for a cricketer? What about hockey, badminton, chess, billiards, shooting and tennis which have brought us international laurels? And remember, cricket is played at the top level by just a handful of countries while the above mentioned sports are practiced worldwide.
So the question will invariably crop up: if for Tendulkar, then why not posthumously for hockey wizard Dhyan Chand, former world badminton champion Prakash Padukone, Olympic gold medalist shooter Abhinav Bindra, world chess champion V. Anand and so many more, including former cricketers ranging from CK Nayudu to Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar?
Let us not fool ourselves. Just because cricket is the most popular sport in the country, it does not stand to reason that it should monopolise national honours. After all, football is Britain’s number one sport by far. But the Queen’s annual birthday honours list hands out gongs to sportspersons across the spectrum.
Giving Tendulkar the Bharat Ratna will only open the floodgates and drag him into an unseemly controversy. Let us treasure him for his contribution to Indian cricket and not distract him from the biggest prize that still awaits him, the World Cup. Just one year to go for that.