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Too poll-busy to praise medallist

Patna, Aug. 17: Congratulatory message for winning a medal in the prestigious Commonwealth Games can wait for bypoll campaigning. At least Vinay Bihari — the man heading the art, culture and youth affairs department in the state — believes so.

Shooter Shreyasi Singh, the daughter of former Union minister late Digvijay Singh, made the state proud bagging a silver in XXth Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 27. But the Bihar government has still not shown the courtesy of sending her a congratulatory note apparently because its ministers are overburdened with bypoll campaigning.

Bihari, the youth affairs minister, said: “We are busy campaigning for our candidates. Hence, we did not get the time to congratulate Shreyasi.”

Bypolls would be conducted in 10 Assembly seats on August 21. Shreyasi bagged the medal in the women’s double trap event almost a month before the poll day.

Shreyasi reached the city today to participate in a function to be organised tomorrow by a civil society at SK Memorial Hall to recognise her success. But any recognition from the state government is still a far cry.

Forget rewards for the Commonwealth Games performance that her peers are getting in other states, Shreyasi did not even get a congratulatory call from anybody in the Bihar government. The ace shooter today told The Telegraph: “One feels sad when people from one’s native place refuse to take notice of one’s success. But I have taken the things in stride and moved ahead,” Shreyasi said.

Responding to Shreyasi’s claim, Bihari said he failed to congratulate the ace shooter because he did not have her cellphone number. He claimed even the officials of his department could not get her number. He said though his department failed to congratulate her directly, he did the same through the media.

Shreyasi comes from a well-known family of the state. Several sportspersons claimed that getting her number was not an uphill task.

Shreyasi’s father late Digvijay Singh was a Union state minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. He won the Banka Lok Sabha seat as an Independent candidate in 2010 after the JDU refused to give him a ticket.

Her mother, Putul Kumari, represented the seat after her father passed away. But Putul lost to the RJD candidate in the last general election.

In sports starved-Bihar, people erupted in joy when Shreyasi won a medal in Commonwealth Games. Several sportspersons and even politicians are upset with the state government for not honouring her for her achievement. BJP’s chief spokesperson Vinod Narayan Jha said: “The state government is not concerned about anything because most of its time goes in safeguarding itself.”

Bihar Players’ Association (BPA) president Mritunjay Tiwari said: “The state is lagging behind in sports because successive state governments have failed to honour or recognise players for their achievements.”

The BPA president said: “Shreyasi was the sole representative from the state in India’s 215-member Commonwealth Games contingent. Even after winning a medal for the country, the state government has not congratulated her!”

Bihari, the youth affairs minister, said Shreyasi would be rewarded for her feat in a function after the bypolls were over.

“All our senior leaders and ministers, including chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, would be busy in campaigning till August 19. After the campaigning ends, we have decided to chalk out a plan for honouring the ace shooter,” Bihari said.

The minister did not inform about the amount of cash award she would be given but hinted that it would not be less than Rs 10 lakh.

The Haryana government recently increased the cash award for gold medal from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 1 crore, from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 50 lakh for silver and Rs 5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh for bronze. It has honoured 20 state players who won medals in Commonwealth Games. Even sportspersons of Manipur, much smaller than Bihar, have been felicitated.