'I can't recommend for Bharat Ratna'

Sports Minister Ajay Maken said he would be happy if any sportsperson is conferred the Bharat Ratna but he could not make any recommendation for any particular individual.

Viswanathan Anand defeated challenger Boris Gelfand of Israel in a tense rapid chess tie-breaker to win the World Championship crown for the fifth time and fourth in a row in Moscow on Wednesday and the chess fraternity has already demanded Bharat Ratna for him.

Asked whether he feels Anand deserves to be honoured with the highest civilian award of the country for his stupendous achievement, Maken said: "As a Sports Minister I will be happy to see any sportsperson getting the Bharat Ratna. But I can't vouch for any individual.

"It is the Prime Minister's prerogative and he has to decide whom to be given and when to be given.

"I am happy that the Home Ministry and Prime Minister has accepted our recommendation to have modified rules to pave way for eligibility of sportspersons for Bharat Ratna," he said.

Maken said Anand will get a cash award of Rupees 10 lakh under the government scheme for winning World Championship.

"In the past we have distributed cash awards to different players for winning gold, silver and bronze medals in international events under the government scheme," Maken said.

"Under this scheme we have different sets of awards for different categories. Like for the World Championship, the individual gold medallist gets Rupees 10 lakh and team individuals get Rupees 5 lakh. So, according to the scheme we will present Rupees 10 lakh to Anand for his World Championship crown," he said.

He also refused to draw comparison between Anand's victory and Kolkata Knight Rider's IPL triumph and said whether or not to felicitate a sportsperson or a team for their achievement depends on the individual.

Asked about Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's over the board celebrations of KKR's IPL win, Maken said: "It depends on different states. KKR won the IPL this year so Bengal decided to celebrate the win.

"But Chennai Super Kings won the IPL twice consecutively but they did not get any felicitations. It depends on person to person and government to government."

With the Olympics round the corner, the Sports Minister also said he was optimistic about Indian athletes' good showing in London.

"In Beijing, only 56 athletes represented India but till now 73-74 athletes have already qualified for the London Olympics and I am expecting something around 85. It is a big thing for us. So, obviously I have a sense of satisfaction and expectations as well," Maken said.

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