| Krishna Poonia |
New Delhi: After four days of intense drama, the sports ministry, late on Thursday evening, decided to stick to the recommendations of the Michael Ferreira-led selection committee and named double trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi as the lone winner for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, 2013.
Sodhi is the seventh shooter after Abhinav Bindra, Anjali Bhagwat, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar to get the Khel Ratna.
The announcement came around 8.30pm, after sports minister Jitendra Singh remained huddled with senior ministry officials for a hours. It ended speculations about discus thrower Krishna Poonia’s name being included for the nation’s top sports award.
“The minister has decided to go by recommendations,” a top ministry official told The Telegraph. Sources, however, said the minister was under pressure from various lobbies to consider Poonia as joint winner. Both Jitendra Singh and Poonia are from Rajasthan.
Asked why he took four days to arrive at a decision, when selection committee was clearly in favour of Sodhi, the official said Singh was looking at all aspects. “There were grievances in some quarters and the minister considered all those things before signing the file,” he said.
Asked whether the Poonia case was referred back to the selection committee, the official said: “No. All we did was to send an informal e-mail to Michael Ferreira asking for his opinion.”
A disappointed Poonia, who was in the capital for the past few days, said she was fighting for justice. “All I did was to make people understand why I was eligible for the award.
“I may not get the award, but my achievement in the sporting arena will remain in the record book. No one can snatch that away. In future also, I will prove my mettle,” said Poonia, who finished seventh in the London Olympics.
The ministry has also ignored the claim of volleyball player Tom Joseph for the Arjuna Award. Kerala based Joseph, who was not in the list recommended by the selection committee, had strong backing from Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy and senior CPI(M) leader VS Achuthanandan. Both spoke to the sports minister but to no avail.
The director general of Sports Authority of India (SAI), Jiji Thompson, refused to sign the minutes of the meeting alleging that Joseph’s name was removed after he left the meeting.
While Sodhi would receive the Khel Ratna, 15 sportspersons would be awarded the Arjuna. The Dronacharya Award would go to five coaches.