NRAI politics will hamper preparations for Rio Games

Navneet Singh

New Delhi, April 23 -- Delhi-based Sanjeev Behl is remotely connected with the Andaman Nicobar Islands. But he managed to represent the Union Territory, which doesn't have a shooting culture, during the April 6 elections of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI).

Behl's contention is that he has done no wrong. "It's within the constitution of the federation to represent any state in the country," he says, adding that he wants to promote sports. Incidentally, no team from the islands has participated in national meets. But the NRAI's constitution played an important role in helping Behl become treasurer of the federation.

Like Behl, there are other "so-called sports administrators" from Delhi who managed to represent different states during the April 6 polls and get plum posts in the federation. For example, federation heavyweights, Avtar Singh Sethi and Baljit Singh Sethi, represented Orissa, a state where shooting is virtually non-existent, in the NRAI elections.

Sports culture

Agreed, Behl and other aspiring candidates did not violate the federation's constitution, but would it help shooting, which got the country back-to-back medals at the Olympics, grow? Certainly not, because to spread the sports culture one has to be present at ground zero and not press a button to activate people to take up shooting.

Armed with the constitution, NRAI's key officials might wriggle out of the litigation initiated by Athens Olympics silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, but they will for sure spend funds meant for the promotion of sport on legal fees.

Legal battle

In fact, the legal battle between two state units of Jharkhand has diverted funds that could have been used to promote the sport. "I have nearly spent a fortune in court cases," said Sanjesh Mohan Thakur, secretary general of one of the factions.

In-fighting between the state officials could be one of the reasons why marksmen in the state are not able to use the infrastructure created during the Ranchi National Games.

It is time the NRAI acts, otherwise off-the-field issues could hamper its Rio plans.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.