Putting an end to all speculations, the Sports Ministry today confirmed that it will stick to the original list of winners for the Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards thereby dashing discus thrower Krishna Poonia's hopes of getting country's highest sporting honour.
The Ministry also confirmed that in a rare move, the date of the national sports award function has been postponed from August 29 to August 31 due to Sports Minister Jitendra Singh's non-availability on the earlier date. Normally August 29, which is legendary Dhyan Chand's birthday is celebrated as 'National Sports Day' and all the government sports awards are presented on that very day.
"The file has been cleared by Mr Jitendra Singh and there has been no addition to the original list of awardees for both Khel Ratna and Arjuna award. We have stuck to the recommendations made by the committee," Sports Secretary P K Deb said.
"The award function, which was earlier to be held on August 29 has been shifted to August 31," Deb added.
Deb said the reason for the delay in announcing the list of awardees was because the Minister was looking into the grievances made by Poonia and London Paralympics silver medallist H N Girisha after their names were left out from the list of recommendations made by the selection panel.
"We were looking into all the complains and the grievances of some athletes and that was the reason why we delayed the announcement of the awards," he said.
After the chorus for considering Poonia's name for the Khel Ratna grew, Jitendra held a number of meetings with his Secretary to arrive at a final decision, even as the Ministry continued to indicate that there would be no change in either the name recommended for the Khel Ratna award or the initial 15 names of sportspersons nominated for the Arjuna awards.
The awards were to be announced Monday, but the sports minister was apparently busy with parliament's monsoon session and also the party affairs he has been entrusted by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and could not clear the file.
The delay led to lot of bad blood between the award winner and the other claimant -- some of the committee members were also dragged into the unseemly media debate.
Two members of the committee were livid that it has become a fashion for athletes to question the decisions taken by eminent sports persons after taking into account all the available material of a claimant.
Both discounted the speculative media stories, giving the sequence of events before deciding on the Khel Ratna award. They said all names were on the table when they met to take the decision.
Both insisted that no member should divulge what transpired at the meeting when everything discussed or spoken there was confidential.
"The discussions are healthy and every member applies his or her mind and there could be even vehement disagreements. But what is important is the decision taken at the end of it all," one member told IANS refusing to divulge the nature of deliberations at the meeting.
"The decision has been taken and there has to be some sanctity about it. It is ridiculous for anyone to speculate or try to reopen the issue just because someone doesn't like it."
Another highly respected member of the committee felt that the media, too, should not read too much into the deliberations once a decision is taken. It doesn't matter what a particular individual said at the meeting.
"It doesn't matter what a member said at the meeting, ultimately the decision taken is what matters, not who thundered or who dissented. It is akin to a cabinet decision, not what transpired at the discussions stage," the member said.
Double-trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi has been recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. Cricketer Virat Kohli is one of the 14 chosen for the Arjuna Award.
Full award list:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Ronjan Sodhi
Chekrovolu Swuro (Archery)
Renjith Maheshwary (Athletics)
P.V. Sindhu (Badminton)
Kavita Chahal (Boxing)
Rupesh Shah (Snooker and Billiards)
Virat Kohli (Cricket)
Abhijeet Gupta (Chess)
Gaganjeet Bhullar (Golf)
Saba Anjum (Hockey)
Rajkumari Rathore (Shooting)
Joshna Chinappa (Squash)
Neha Rathi (Wrestling)
Dharmender Dalal (Wrestling)
Amit Kumar Saroha (Athletics)