New Delhi: The BJP-led Central government on Friday renamed the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the highest sporting honour of India, as Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the move was based on numerous requests he had received from across the nation.
The move follows the admirable performance of both men's and women's hockey teams in the Tokyo Olympics.
"I have been getting many requests from citizens across India to name the Khel Ratna Award after Major Dhyan Chand. I thank them for their views. Respecting their sentiment, the Khel Ratna Award will hereby be called the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award!" he tweeted with the hashtag #JaiHind.
The renaming of the award recognises the ultimate hockey hero and legend, Major Dhyan Chand. His birthday is celebrated as National Sports Day, he has won three Olympic gold for the country. Launched in 1991-92, the award comprises a medallion, a certificate, and a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh.
The decision of the government has started a political slugfest. The Congress welcomed the move but insisted that if the government has made a start, it should take it to a logical conclusion. Congress communications chief Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “We sincerely hope now that a new beginning has been made. ModiJi will announce, changing the name of Narendra Modi Stadium and Arun Jaitley Stadium and name it after legendary sportspersons, like Sardar Milkha Singh, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Leander Paes, P.T. Usha, Mary Kom, Abhinav Bindra and many, many others.”
He further added that the government has reduced the sports budget by Rs 230 crore in an Olympic year.
Trinamool Congress MP Sukhendu Shekhar Ray said, "It would’ve been better if they had renamed the Narendra Modi Stadium. That would’ve been a better tribute to Dhyan Chand”.