2015 saw new alignment in Jammu and Kashmir politics

2015 saw new alignment in Jammu and Kashmir politics

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Sports: Room for Politics, not Politicians

The ongoing controversy over Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s past association with Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) raises one basic question: should politicians administer sports? This question has two dimensions – “politics and sports” and “politicians in sports”. As politicians are practitioners of politics, one may think that the two are the same; but there is a major difference between them. As regards politics and sports, their relationship is interminable. Sports have always been instruments of politics, be it at local or regional or national or international level. Sports in this case become synonymous with the honour or policy of a town or the province or the country. This explains why India and Pakistan are not playing cricket these days. This explains why upset over Russia’s policy towards Ukraine, many Western countries have warned that their teams will stay away from the 2018 World Cup(Football), to be held in 11 Russian cities. This also explains why during the Cold War, the USA-led Block had boycotted the Moscow Olympics (1980) and the then Soviet Union-led group had boycotted Los Angeles Olympics (1984). A corollary of the phenomenon of sports being instruments of politics also explains how and why world class stadiums or other sports infrastructures have come about with the State-support. Without the generous grants from the government of the day, Delhi, for instance, would not have able to host the Asian games in 1982 and commonwealth games in 2010. The same is the case all over the world. The consequent corruption is a different story. Thus, politics is and shall remain an integral part of sports, whether we like it or not. However, the trend of “politicians in sports” is neither inevitable nor desirable. Unlike that of a collective entity like the State, the interference in sports-affairs of a politician as an individual is aimed at personal gains. Sport provides the politician a stage for public visibility, attention, and awareness. When a politician appears at, say, a Cricket or Football match, it shows that he or she shares a common passion for the wider public. After all, publicity is the oxygen for a successful politician. Having power to control the sports heroes and being seen with them work towards the creation of legitimacy, likeability, and credibility for a politician. And if the politician is so inclined, he or she can make a lot of money for himself or herself, given the huge cash the modern sports bodies possess. No wonder why the Indian politicians love to head or be associated with leading sports bodies. We have had leading politicians like NKP Salve and Sharad Pawar heading the BCCI, the country’s richest sports body. In fact, Pawar headed the BCCI even though he was India’s Agriculture Minister. BCCI’s present secretary Anurag Thakur is a Member of Parliament. Congress MP Rajiv Shukla has also been a senior functionary of BCCI for years. Politicians have been heading the regional bodies of the BCCI as well – Jaitley of the DDCA and BJP president Amit Shah of the Gujarat unit. In fact, Shah replaced none other than Prime Minister Modi in this post. Our politicians have not even spared other sports bodies. Let alone the Indian Olympic Association, bodies dealing with Football, Tennis, Hockey, Archery, Shooting or Rowing have invariably been headed by leading politicians such as Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, Praful Patel, Suresh Kalmadi, Lalu Yadav, Yashwant Sinha, K P Singhdeo, Digvijay Singh and Vijay Kumar Malhotra. It may be noted that as the Union Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar had once proposed a new national sports policy whose principal feature was that Indian sports should be free of politicians. Predictably it did not work out, with politicians, irrespective of their party affiliations, joining hands to oppose the move. 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