We want to make sports a part of education, says the minister.
What is your perception about Arvind Kejriwal’s brand of politics?
In Delhi, after the BJP and the Congress, people wanted to give the Aam Aadmi Party a chance. However, after the Delhi assembly polls, his (Kejriwal's) political fortune has been on the decline. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, out of 437 seats his party contested on, they won just 4 seats. In Varanasi Lok Sabha polls, Kejriwal had to face huge defeat. In Goa polls, his party couldn’t save its deposit in 39 out of 40 seats and they couldn’t even win a single seat. In Punjab, they could manage to win just 20 seats. In Delhi by-polls, his vote percentage dipped by 15 percent. This is the result of his negative politics. He never talks about development. More than half of his MLAs are facing corruption charges. More than half of his ministers had to be kicked out. The public of Delhi, which used to love Kejriwal once, now hates him.
In this MCD poll, the candidates fielded by the BJP were all new. Was this part of a new strategy or were there complaints against former candidates?
There can’t be complaints against all former candidates. The party decided to give an opportunity to new faces. When I became an MP, even I was new. I was fielded against Jagdish Tytler. Even then party took a risk of giving an opportunity to new faces. As a result of which, I am serving the party and the country for last 30-40 years.
Referring to the tax waiver on your house, Arvind Kejriwal has promised that if he wins the MCD polls, he will waive off house tax in Delhi?
It is not Vijay Goel’s property, it is a heritage property. Arvind Kejriwal doesn’t know that heritage properties across the country have been exempted or are given concessions in property tax, income tax, VAT, Stamp Duty etc. This is to conserve and preserve the heritage properties. Countries across the world follow and encourage such norms. The Chairman of Shahjahanabad Development Board, Manish Sisodia has passed a resolution to exempt heritage properties of Stamp Duty, Property Tax, VAT and Income Tax. He has also proposed that these properties be given loan so that they can be preserved and conserved.
It’s been a long journey for you in politics. You were in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, now you are in the Narendra Modi government. How do you look at governance of both leaders?
During Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime, I was a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, now I am minister for youth affairs and sports. Both the leaders were development oriented. Vajpayee ji will be known for roads as he built highways and roads in villages. Similarly, Narendra Modi, as you can see, has been working for all sections of the society. He has announced a slew of schemes; be it Jan Dhan Yojana, Smart India, Digital India, Bhim App, or Start-up India. The day Narendra Modi was chosen, he had said that his government will be dedicated to the poor. That’s why most of his schemes are for the poor. My political journey has been great. We have been successful in doing a lot of things.
You have recently said that sports will be made part of the education curriculum. How far have you reached in achieving the same?
PM Modi says, Kheloge to Khiloge. Sport is an important part of life. Sport is a state subject. Still the central government tries to supplement states. We have two main objectives. First is broad-basing of sports, second is excellence in sports. We want to make sure that sports reaches each and every corner of the country, specially villages and tribal areas. These are the places where most of the talent comes from. We couldn’t win many medals in Rio Olympics but we sent a team of 119. We have already started the preparations for 2020, 2024 and 2028 Olympics. That’s why the sports ministry is going to launch talent search portal. If anyone starting from the age of 8-10 years, uploads his/her video or sends a resume, then our ministry will pick him/her up and encourage them to enter sports by giving them scholarship. We are trying to build grounds for games in villages. 2017 is football year. FIFA under-17 Football world cup is going to be held. We want each and every youth to adopt one or the other game. Not just cricket, we want to promote our indigenous sports like Kabaddi and Kho Kho as well. We want to make sports a part of education. Some subjects should be made compulsory. This will help in fitness and health as well. Our priority is school. We will organize competitions in school and pick talents from there and train them. We will promote sports in colleges as well.
After the 2016 Olympics, PM Modi had said that he will form task forces to organize such games in future. What is the status of that task force?
We have already formed the task force. In a month or two, they will send their report recommending ways to improve our games. The task force comprises sportsmen and administrators. We have formed Olympics committees as well which will select players for upcoming Olympics. We will train the selected players for the next Olympics, Commonwealth Games, and Asian Games.
How is our preparation for upcoming Commonwealth games and Asian Games?
We have already started the process to select players. We have asked the federations to search for talents by organising competitions at all levels, junior and senior.
The popularity of our national game hockey is not much when compared to cricket. What are we doing to promote sports other than cricket?
This is football year, so we are making sure that the game of football reaches villages across the country. We want that people get the facilities and infrastructure for the same. We want to build sports grounds. We will provide community coaches. We will start diploma courses for coaches. Cricket is a good game, but we want to encourage other sports as well. Our hockey team recently did very well. PV Sindhu has reached the number 2 spot in the world. We have made improvements in hockey and boxing. In under-17 football, our ranking has improved. So, we are doing good in all the games.
Have you seen any positive change in the functioning of BCCI ever since a Committee of Administrators was appointed?
This is a matter between the supreme court and the BCCI. Given the ongoing dispute, we are not interfering much in cricket right now. However, the Committee of Administrators is a temporary arrangement. In future, the elected body will be running the board. In any case, we have asked all sports federations to follow the national development code of sports in order to maintain transparency and accountability.
Arguments have been made in the past that because of the less involvement of the sports ministry in cricket, BCCI exploits its autonomy. How would you like to respond?
We are trying to strengthen our hold over all sports bodies. We have asked the federations to be accountable to the public. We keep a check on all sports bodies in order to make sure that they follow our code. You must remember that we had suspended the Indian Olympics Association when it had appointed two charge-sheeted persons as its lifetime presidents.