Politics hots up in Odisha over National Game tag to hockey

Bhubaneswar:  As Odisha is gearing up to host the Hockey Men’s World Cup in November, politics has taken centre stage in the State over Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare Hockey as the ‘National Game’ of India.

Political barbs flew soon after Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has said that for loving hockey no official proclamation is required. The opposition Congress and BJP alleged that the BJD government and Naveen Patnaik are trying to build their own image.

“The Chief Minister (referring to Naveen Patnaik) who doesn’t know about anything about sports and never ever played any sports in his life, is suddenly asking for this (National Status for Hockey). It’s nothing just a drama to create his image at the National level,” senior Congress leader Tara Prasad Bahinipati said.

The BJP too levelled similiar allegations. “It has become a fashion for him (Naveen) to create new stories for political benefits instead trying to sort out important issues such as Sri Mandir’s Ratna Bhandar key missing among others,” State BJP Spokesperson Golaka Mohapatra alleged.

In reply, the State government has maintained that the issue was raised for the benefit of Hockey and all players across the country.

“Since the CM has brought the issue to everyone’s notice, it should be welcomed,” said State Sports Minister Chandra Sarathi Behera.

Reacting to the image building allegation by the opposition, the Minister said: “Those who are accusing the Chief Minister for publicity they shoul know that the CM has already got recognition nationally.”

Meanwhile, Naveen has reiterated that he will again take up the issue with PM Modi for notifying National sports status to Hockey.

“I’m surprised like all of you to see that hockey is not been declared as the National Game. I’ve taken up it with the PM and asked for his support to declare hockey as our national sports. It would be a fitting tribute to the great players who brought glory for country,” Naveen told reporters here this afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Rathore speaking to media in Delhi, said: “For loving sports and hockey, we do not need official proclamation. (Like) now (that) it is (our) national sport so let us start loving it. Even in terms of facilities, hockey is one of the priority sports of our country.”

He added that he would leave this up to the people who love Hockey whether they would want it to be declared a national sport officially or they would continue to love it even if it remains unofficial.

On Wednesday, Patnaik has written a letter to Prime Minister Modi, urging him to officially recognise hockey as the national sport of India.

As Odisha is all set to host the Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar in November this year, Patnaik said that he was shocked to learn that hockey -which is considered as our national game–has never been officially notified.

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