And the credit goes to...

No one pretends any more that sports and politics do not mix. Sport is often politics by other means.

Glorious moment: Rajyavardhan Rathore celebrates with the silver medal he won in the men’s double trap event at the 2004 Athens Olympics.   -  AP

Perhaps we do our Sports Minister an injustice. Perhaps only a portion of his message to the sports federations has been made public. You know the one, where he asked the federations to go back into history and tabulate the number of medals won by our sportsmen under different political dispensations.

So, has the NDA won more medals than the UPA? And how did Rajyavardhan Rathore himself feel when he stood on the podium, a silver medal around his neck, at the 2004 Olympics? Was he upset that the UPA government was at the centre? Or was he telling himself that had the NDA been in power, he might have won gold? And where did India figure in all this?

No one pretends any more that sports and politics do not mix. Sport is often politics by other means. Hitler demonstrated that at the Olympics in 1936, but he wasn’t the first to do so. Remember Nero, the man who fiddled while Rome burnt? Well, he wasn’t above fiddling the results on the sports field too, declaring himself winner of the chariot race in an Olympics event of the first century despite having fallen off the chariot. His reasoning was superb: He would have won had he completed the race. Ah! The joys of being the emperor!

But as I said, perhaps we do the Sports Minister an injustice. Perhaps he also wanted to find out who the American President was when India had their best year in sport — now there’s a topic worthy of someone’s doctoral thesis. Or indeed who the Italian Prime Minister was when India won the most Test matches. Or which party was in power in Bolivia when the weightlifters did well at the Asian Games.

Finding patterns in apparently random events is a major step in repeating those events. Thus, if it was discovered that an America under a Democrat or a Bolivia ruled by a woman was best for Indian sport, the next step would be to ensure that India took part in the Olympics only when such happened to be the case.

We are unfair to the Sports Minister if we accuse him of cheapening his office, his party and his stature as only the second Indian to win an Olympic medal in an individual event. His heart clearly is in the right place even if his head might not be.

Grabbing credit when it is not due is an old Indian habit. Perhaps it is universal. After all, haven’t India’s political parties taken credit for the fall in oil prices, successful monsoons, and cyclones missing our coasts?

If Rathore is keen to paste the picture of an overenthusiastic politician over that of a decorated sportsman, there is little we can do. An intelligent, suave sportsman turning into a rabid political animal is not a pretty sight, though. But perhaps we do him an injustice. Perhaps his intentions are purely statistical. And it is up to us to join the dots. Then again, perhaps not.