Saturday, 25 June, 2022
HomeOpinionModi MonitorAfter Indira Gandhi, Narendra Modi only PM to display enthusiasm about sports

After Indira Gandhi, Narendra Modi only PM to display enthusiasm about sports

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi realises that in these deeply polarised times, sports is a great unifier.

This week has belonged to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tweeting with both abandon and ecstasy on the marvellous performance of Indian athletes at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. With two more days to go, the Indian haul so far has been spectacular by any standards – of the 59 medals, 13 are gold, 21 silver and 25 bronze.

And the PM has risen to the occasion. His Twitter team has kept a close eye on the Games, whether he is in Delhi or Kathmandu (he flew there Thursday afternoon for a two-day meeting of leaders from the Bay of Bengal region, called BIMSTEC). Thursday evening ended with Modi (@narendramodi) gushing over the men’s 4X400 m relay team which won a silver:

Stupendous teamwork brings home one more medal. Delighted that our Men’s 4×400 m Relay Team has won a Silver. #AsianGames2018

Another tweet gushed over Indian women winning the gold in the 4X400 m relay.

While in a third tweet, he was ecstatic about Jinson Johnson’s amazing feat in the 1500-m race who brought home the gold.

Two others sent congratulations to Chitra Unnikrishnan (bronze in the women’s 1500-m race) and Seema Punia (bronze in discus throw). In fact, each time an Indian athlete has won a medal in the last fortnight, the PM’s social media pages have recognised his/her efforts with considerable excitement.

Also read: Obsession with Asian Games’ medal tally shows India’s breathtaking apathy towards sports

When was the last time you saw an Indian prime minister display such enthusiasm about sports? Not Manmohan Singh, who allowed the Commonwealth Games in 2010 in Delhi to be tarnished with all kinds of allegations about corruption. Worse, with a few days to go before the Games were to open, the foreign press played out horrifying scenes about the shabby state of the Games Village and the lack of readiness about other infrastructure.

All of India watched in shock and horror when the Army’s cadres were called into the heart of Delhi to build an overhead walkway outside the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium.

But when the Games opened, the spectacular ceremony evaporated all the misgivings and criticisms that had been showered upon the political class. And then when the entire stadium, all 80,000 people, erupted around a single, orgasmic word, there was nothing more left to be said, except Gold!

Strangely, neither Atal Bihari Vajpayee nor P.V. Narasimha Rao or the others who came in between, I.K. Gujral and H.D. Deve Gowda, were particularly interested in sports. Rao was too busy saving his minority government in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, while Gowda and Gujral were gone before you could say ‘Khul ja sim sim’. Vajpayee, like Manmohan Singh, would much rather use sports to improve political ties (like playing cricket with Pakistan).

The last time a prime minister was interested in sports was Indira Gandhi. She pushed through the Asian Games in 1982, realising that sports was one way of also showcasing India’s incredible potential to the rest of the world.

Also read: Kashmir’s kayaking star Bilquis Mir is India’s only water sports judge at the Asian Games

(Those of us old enough to remember can vouch for the agony of watching India’s Zafar Iqbal losing the hockey match to Pakistan, 1-7, and our utter shock when Chinese basketballers just rolled over the Indians.)

Like Indira, Modi is more than a sum of his parts. In this last week he has travelled to Nepal for the BIMSTEC meeting, Rahul Gandhi has attacked him over the Rafale jet deal, the RBI has castigated him for his Muhammad bin Tughlaq-like capricious demonetisation experiment, which has severely dented the economy (99.3 per cent of Rs 15.4 lakh crore came back to the system).

He has also interacted with the BJP supporters through a video link in Varanasi, promoting his beloved Swachh Bharat campaign, and personally tweeted his thanks to Pragati Kumar @pragatik, who thanked the PM for the air connection between Allahabad and Patna so that his 90-year-old grandmother could travel.

But the PM’s downpour of tweets on the Indian athletes at the Asian Games has been nothing short of stupendous.

Modi’s enthusiasm is infectious. He realises that in these deeply polarised times, sports is a great unifier. He knows that athletes like Hima Das, Jinson Johnson, Kunhu Mohammed Puthanpurakkal (part of the 4X400 m men’s relay quartet), Vismaya Velluva Koroth (part of the 4X400 m women’s relay quartet) and many others with tongue-twisters for names are icons who can rise above caste, creed, colour, religion and just stand for one thing: Being Indian.

This week, that is enough to celebrate.

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  1. Those of us old enough will remember that PVN always made himself available for picking draws for India’s Davis cup team? We also remember him saying ‘Badhayee hi, Azharuddin” on winning the series against England in 1993.

    This looks like a column produced just for the sake of it

  2. can not beleive this you guys celebrating India it sounds more of a Right wing stuff than so to say say Intellectualthought processes Intellectulaims in India means India bashing , Hindu bashing , Hindus are fascists Indian intellecualism means we are doomed nation

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