The Cancer Of Politics In Indian Sports

Today, virtually no sport in India is free from the interference of politicians. Indian sports federations, boards, governing bodies, etc., have become “a rehabilitation centre for politicians and retired bureaucrats”. Obviously, the prime objective of politicians chairing an apex body of any sport is all about power, money and publicity. The main purpose of apex bodies in sports may be talent hunts, providing adequate and modern training to players, and grooming the next generation players, but these are perhaps the last priority for politicians and bureaucrats who want to be king makers in Indian sports. If we consider the case of the Indian men’s hockey team, we will find that this men’s event has been the only one which provided 8 Olympic Gold Medals to India. But once politicians and bureaucrats took over its administration, it became difficult for the team to even make a mark at the Olympics. These politicians and bureaucrats often do not have the required expertise and experience regarding sports. If the boss himself is ignorant then how can the future of the sport be bright?
Quite clearly, passion and professionalism need to replace politics for the betterment of Indian sports. Dilip Vengsarkar, the veteran cricketer once said that “Politicians have taken over sports associations. That’s where we have lost because they are here for exposure, not for sports.” He also said that “they do not have what it takes to run a sports organisation. They do not have passion for sports.” The prime examples of such politicians who are enjoying apex positions in sports are Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Abhay Singh Chautala, Ajay Singh Chautala, Arun Jaitley, Rajeev Shukla, Suresh Kalmadi and many more. No sports federation in India is free from the influence of politicians and bureaucrats. More and more politicians are clamouring to get into the area of sports administration.

It is sad and ironic that with such a wealth of former eminent players available, sports administration has to be entrusted to self serving politicians and bureaucrats. As a cynic commented, “for them, politicising sports will always be a priority.” It is high time a call is taken on politics in Indian sports.

According to politicians and bureaucrats they have to be at the helm of sports bodies to get things going. Nothing could be further from actuality. Worse, once they taste the sweetness of the often luxurious facilities and other benefits attached to a position in a sports federation, it becomes very difficult to dislodge them from their position. The All-India Football Federation (AIFF) is a prime example of this. Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, Member of Parliament (MP), is one of those sports heads who have the least experience of sports, particularly in football. But he could not be dislodged. Amazingly, even a so-called professional federation like the All-India Tennis Association (AITA) has always been left in the hands of the politicians. Apart from Raj Kumar Khanna, a former tennis player, all the other presidents of AITA viz. Chidambaram Subramanium, Brahmanand Reddy, Fakkuruddin Ali Ahmed, Natwar Singh, Satish Sharma and now former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha cannot boast of any kind of playing background in tennis.
Former All-England and World Champion Prakash Padukone tried his level best to clean up the Badminton Federation of India from the stranglehold of the politicians. But in the end, Prakash was forced to quit, saying that he was unable to cope with the ways of the ‘careerist sports officials’. Now these politicians and bureaucrats seem to be at the peak of an era of total politicisation of sports federations in the country. It can be argued of course that it is due to these politicians and bureaucrats that many federations are able to generate funds for the benefit of the game and the players. But can one really justify handing over the future of Indian sports to politicians and bureaucrats because they can help generate funding? Of late, both the Central and the State Governments have been providing ever improving budgets for the improvements of sports and several corporates have entered the picture in sponsoring and funding sports. It is sad and ironic that with such a wealth of former eminent players available, sports administration has to be entrusted to self serving politicians and bureaucrats. As a cynic commented, “for them, politicising sports will always be a priority.” It is high time a call is taken on politics in Indian sports.

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