In a major cabinet reshuffle by the Narendra Modi led BJP government yesterday, Kiren Rijiju, who was the independent charge Minister of State (MoS) Youth Affairs and Sports, was promoted into the Cabinet Ministry as a Minister of Law and Justice.
This was a major jump for Rijiju, who was appointed as the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports at the very beginning of the second term of the Modi government in 2019. Since the past two years, the 49-year-old has been at the forefront of the Indian sporting fraternity. Rijiju was everywhere, from the famous Fit India movement to the inaugurations of sports centres across various corners of the country, and was always the first to respond to the cries for help of various sportspersons on Twitter.
Now that Kiren Rijiju leaves his office just days ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, he has left a huge void to fill.
The incoming Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Anurag Thakur, has been in and around sports administration for a long time. Just 46-year-old Thakur has served as the president of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) before being named the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) – the apex cricket body in the country, for quite some time.
But, none of these stints has been without controversy.
While being the president of HPCA somewhere in the year 2000, Anurag Thakur was accused of picking himself in the playing XI of Himachal Pradesh, that too as a captain, in a Ranji Trophy clash against Jammu & Kashmir. That remains the only first-class match he has played in his career.
He did this so as to fulfil the criteria, which states that only cricketers who have played at least one first-class match can act as administrators with the BCCI.
Thakur was appointed as the secretary of BCCI for the first time in 2015, before being elevated to the post of the BCCI President in 2016. His time with the top cricket body, too, was filled with controversies, with the Supreme Court of India stepping in to sack him from his post for not complying with the court orders in early 2017.
He has since risen steadily through the ranks in the Modi-led BJP government. The son of a former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Thakur was first elected to Lok Sabha in 2008 by-polls.
He served as the Minister of State (MoS) Finance under the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman before being promoted to the Cabinet Ministry as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports yesterday.
Anurag Thakur has huge boots to fill once he takes charge as the Sports Minister of the country.
Some of the main challenges for Thakur as the Sports Minister will include the Sports Mandatory Sharing Act and regulating the Fantasy Sports and betting market in India.
Besides, Thakur is known for his love for cricket, as can be understood from the posts he has held prior in his career. At a time when other sports are slowly but steadily getting recognition in the country, it is necessary that cricket is not imposed on the Indian audience. It will surely remain the most-watched and enjoyed sports in the country, but Thakur, much like Rijiju, needs to make sure that the lesser-known sports do not suffer in the country.