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Following a staggering victory of the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi took oath as the country's Prime Minister for a second term on Thursday and he was sworn in along with 24 other cabinet ministers. However, in a surprising move by the Modi government, star BJP Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was missing from the list of ministers at the swearing-in ceremony. Rathore, in the first term of the Modi government, held the position of Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting and Sports at the Centre. He was instrumental in BJP’s clean sweep in the state of Rajasthan. With Rathore missing from the dais, raised a lot of questions. Contesting from the Jaipur rural constituency, Rathore, in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections defeated fellow Olympian and Congress candidate Krishna Poonia. The Olympian shooter and a retired Colonel from the army had gained much respect in his constituency for having paved the way for development. The double trap shooter and silver medallist at 2004 Summer Olympics became a path-breaker when he was appointed the first sportsperson to helm the Sports Ministry in September 2017. The last one-and-a-half years of him being the sports minister ushered a significant era in India that sowed the seeds of being a sporting superpower.
The year 2018 marked the first edition of the Khelo India School Games which was followed a successful second edition in 2019. The tournament brought some bright talents of Indian sports into the fore, including Swimmer Srihari Nataraj, shooter Manu Bhaker, and weightlifter Jeremy Lalrinnunga. Having a figure like Rathore at the Centre also brought various private, state and SAI (Sports Authority of India) academies across the country into accreditation. Another distant dream was achieved when the National Sports University in Imphal rolled out its first batch of students in 2018. Also Read: India’s first Olympian sports minister’s successful battle to free sports from politics From giving approval to the Indian Kho Kho team to participate in the International Kho Kho Championship for the first time, to double the existing rate of pension for medal winners in international sports events, Colonel Rathore set a benchmark with a renewed vigour he added to sporting culture of the country.
It was indeed refreshing to see a sportsperson undertaking Sports Ministry. We have had a history of athletes bearing the brunt of bureaucratic affairs. Some of the contrasting highlights that came under Rathore's advisory were the dedicated focus on identifying athletes from the grassroots and the financial aid distributed by the government to nurture the talent pool of the country.
He proposed from the academic year 2019-20 onwards school syllabi would be reduced to devote more time to sports in the curriculum, a move which was welcomed by a majority of forward-looking Indians. While in the west and a few Asian countries, there are well-developed youth programmes to ensure grooming of outstanding sports talent; recreational sports are also a part of everyday life there. Being a sportsperson himself, Rathore has a fair understanding of the challenges faced in the sporting ecosystem of the country which he envisioned to revamp. Col. Rathore was a favorite of all athletes across the length and breadth of the country. With him bidding farewell to the ministry it will be a big challenge making sport an integral part of Indian school and college curriculam where sports is still considered as a secondary element to education. The role of a sports minister is to inculcate a sporting culture among the mass and work towards the development of sports. Schools and colleges across remote villages of India, even in big metropolitans do not necessarily have the right equipment to facilitate good advancement of sporting talent. Therefore, it would be highly imperative for our new sports minister to ensure Colonel Rathore’s programme could at least take the wing and ensure the operations are implemented with necessary guidance.
At a time when the country lies divided with communal tension and sectarian politics, Rathore tried his best to keep politics aside from sport and kindled our vision as a sporting giant.