New Delhi: So will Sachin Tendulkar not be India's first sportsman Bharat Ratna? The Sports Ministry has forwarded the names of three sportsmen to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to be considered for the country's highest civilian award, and none of those names is Sachin Tendulkar. This is because the ministry received no recommendation from India's cricket board that Sachin be awarded the Bharat Ratna.
Those whose names have been forwarded are hockey legend Dhyanchand, Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and the man who first conquered Mt Everest, Tenzing Norgay. The ministry says it had recommendations for these sportsmen from their respective sports bodies. The chess federation had recommended Vishwanathan Anand's name, but the ministry says it has not received it.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has not proposed Sachin's name; it has suggested that the Sports Ministry make that recommendation. "See, in awards like these, individuals make their recommendations, and then the government panel makes the final decision. When Sachin got a Padma Shri, or Padma Bhushan, or Padma Vibushan, then also BCCI didn't give any names. The decision was taken in the same way - individuals write in and then government on its part, takes a decision. BCCI doesn't give any names for this, BCCI just writes in for the Arjuna award," said BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla.
Last month, the government included sportsmen in the eligibility criterion for India's highest civilian award; the Bharat Ratna can now be awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order "in any field of human endeavour". It was earlier limited to recognising "exceptional services in arts, literature and science, and in recognition of public services of the highest order."
The changes were brought about after Sports Minister Ajay Maken wrote to the Home Ministry last year. Mr Maken, when asked who he thought should be the first sportsman to get a Bharat Ratna, had said that Dhyanchand or Tendulkar would be his pick.
There has been much clamour over the last few years for a Bharat Ratna for Sachin, the world's most prolific run-getter and arguably, India's favourite cricketer.