Sports minister Ajay Maken who was not invited for the inaugural F1 Grand Prix on Sunday in Noida, says he never expected an invitation after the organisers' request for Rs 100-crore tax exemption was turned down by him
Bollywood celebrities and cricket stars are set to grace the inaugural Formula One Indian Grand Prix today but one dignitary who will not be attending is Sports Minister Ajay Maken who, according to sources has not yet been invited for the high-profile event by the organisers.
Maken was not invited by the Jaypee Group for the final day race at the brand-new state-of-the-art Buddh International Circuit at Greater Noida. But Maken is not surprised. "I was never expecting an invite from the F1 organisers. I am not a star or a celebrity or an item girl, I am only a Sports Minister. When I have rejected their request for tax exemption and custom duty, why should I expect an invitation?" Maken said.
Among those who will make their presence felt are Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Arjun Rampal along with cricketers Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir.
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and McLaren drives during practice for the Indian Formula One Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Noida. PIC/Getty Images
The minister does not regret his decision. He said, "Any tax exemption is as good as granting aid. The PT Usha Academy does not have a synthetic track. It is such projects that require government support rather than F1." The Jaypee Group which built the spanky Buddh International Circuit at a cost of Rs 2,000 crore, had appealed to the government to reconsider the tax exemption issue but the Sports Ministry rejected it on October 24.
A top official at the sports ministry said the organisers had sent two passes to Maken's residence. "It is not the way to invite the Sports Minister to such an event. It is nothing but a deliberate slight to the minister," the official said on condition of anonymity.