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World's Biggest Cricket Stadium a Proud Moment for India. Those Shouting ‘We Two, Our Two’ Shouldn't Forget ‘We Three, Our 22’ Legacy

By: Brajesh Kumar Singh

Edited By:

Last Updated: February 25, 2021, 18:15 IST

Representative Image.

Representative Image.

As far as Narendra Modi is concerned, in more than 12 years as chief minister of Gujarat and six years as the PM, he has not named a single government scheme after himself.

Rahul Gandhi is not able to digest the fact that the world’s biggest stadium in Ahmedabad has been named after Narendra Modi, but he has probably forgotten that country’s 22 big sports stadia are named after his father Rajiv Gandhi, his grandmother Indira Gandhi and his great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru. This stadium has been named after Modi because he had been the president of the Gujarat Cricket Association while the names of all these three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family are associated with stadia because they were prime ministers of the country. There is another difference, Modi’s name has not been added to a project which involves public money while most of the stadia which bear the name of the Nehru-Gandhi family have been built with public money.

The third Test match between India and England has already started in the largest stadium of the world. For every Indian, it is a matter of pride that this stadium is in Ahmedabad. Till recently, this record was held by Australia’s Melbourne Cricket Ground, which has a seating capacity of 90,000. But Ahmedabad’s Motera ground has now surpassed the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It has a seating capacity of over 1.32 lakh and also boasts of other facilities which no other stadium in the world could match.

But when it is a matter of national pride, some people are just not able to digest it. Their problem is: why the stadium has been named after Narendra Modi. This stadium, which bears the name of Narendra Modi, is owned by the Gujarat Cricket Association, and they do not have a problem with this. The party which has a problem is the Congress Party and the person who is raising a hue and cry over it is Rahul Gandhi who never leaves any stone unturned to criticise Narendra Modi. Now the question is: what is the problem if the world’s biggest stadium has been named after Narendra Modi? As is obvious, the stadium has not been given this name because Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of the country. The stadium has got this name because he has been the president of the cricket association, which owns this stadium, for nearly five years.

Anybody who has even a little bit of knowledge about cricket would know that in this country, the names of cricket stadia are associated with the area where the stadium is situated or are named after those who have been associated with cricket administration, have been presidents of BCCI or state cricket associations. For example, Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium or Chennai’s Chidambaram Stadium, Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Stadium or Mohali’s I.S. Bindra Stadium have been named after those who have headed the state cricket associations and have been famous cricket administrators in the past and have played important roles in BCCI and contributed to the advancement of the game in the country.

It was Modi’s idea

Obviously, the game of cricket in India is run independently by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) which is an autonomous body. BCCI and the organisations affiliated to it not only organise cricket matches but also build and develop related resources. And a stadium is one such important resource where national and international cricket matches are played.

The largest stadium of the world, which was inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday in Gujarat, is owned by the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA). The GCA has got this stadium constructed and has spent around Rs 750 crore on it, and it now bears the name of Narendra Modi. The GCA has pumped in Rs 300 crore from its own pocket while the rest of the amount has been taken as loan, which will be paid in near future as this stadium will make money while hosting various national and international matches. These matches are the biggest source of income for such state associations.

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Those who are fuming over the stadium getting the name of Narendra Modi forget that it was Narendra Modi, then president of the Gujarat Cricket Association, who had suggested his colleagues to demolish the worn-out Motera stadium and get a new ultramodern swanky stadium built in its place. Narendra Modi had become the president of GCA in 2009, just a day before he celebrated his 59th birthday, and laboured hard to develop cricket in Gujarat and helped new talent shine. Not only were new pitches built, but good coaches were also appointed who could hone new talent.

After becoming the Prime Minister in May 2014, Modi stepped down as the president of GCA. Six months before that, he had finalised the plan for the Motera ground. On the basis of what he had planned, the next GCA president Amit Shah and senior vice-president Parimal Nathwani carried forward the work on the stadium. When on the directions of the Lodha Committee Amit Shah left the post of the president of GCA, the new generation took the project to the next level. Jay Shah, who was the joint secretary of GCA, and is presently BCCI secretary and Asian Cricket Council president, Nathwani and his son Dhanraj Nathwani ensured that the work on the construction of the stadium continues without any hindrance. Dhanaraj is presently the vice president of the GCA and looks after all the routine affairs.

One must remember that when the work on the stadium started four years ago, no publicity was done. Jay Shah and Parimal Nathwani performed the bhoomi puja for the construction of the stadium on January 16, 2017 in a low-key ceremony and within a record time of three years, the construction of the biggest stadium in the world had been completed. Had the coronavirus pandemic not struck, Motera stadium would have been ready to host matches last year.

Cricket lovers from all over the world would be able to see the splendour of this stadium on their TV screens now. However, exactly a year ago, when the stadium hosted the Namaste Trump programme on February 24, 2020, those who had come to this stadium had witnessed its grandeur because 90 per cent of the work was complete by then.

It was obvious that when the new stadium was set to be inaugurated by the President, it was also set to get a new name. Most stadia in this country are named after people who have been associated with the cricket administration and have contributed to the development of the game. In such a scenario, nobody should be surprised if this stadium was named after Narendra Modi. Forget for some time that Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat for over 12 years and is now the Prime Minister of the country since 2014. As a former president of the GCA, he deserves to have a stadium named after him. Also, only cricket associations decide on the names of the stadia and not the government—the government does not own the stadium, the cricket association does.

Asking the right questions

As far as the name of the old stadium named after Sardar Patel is concerned, critics forget that the newly constructed Narendra Modi stadium will be part of the old Sardar Patel Sports Enclave, which will have facilities for over 20 Olympic sports. This will also have huge housing facilities for players and Ahmedabad will be identified as a sports city, as mentioned by the Home Minister.

The Congress Party which is raising hue and cry over the naming of the stadium needs to introspect. One could ask how big a sportsperson Rajiv Gandhi was since India’s highest sports award ‘Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna’ is named after him. If you take cricket, then one may ask why the cricket stadium in Hyderabad is called Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium even though he had nothing to do with the Hyderabad Cricket Association, which owns this stadium.

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If one goes by statistics, there are 22 stadia in the country associated with sports that are named after the members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, the maximum (12) being named after Rajiv Gandhi, the rest are named after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Not only this, 17 trophies or tournaments are named after them—Rajiv Gandhi’s name is associated with 12 tournaments. Can the Congress Party tell besides political games, which real games these three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family have excelled in, that their names are associated with so many tournaments?

Compared to the Congress Party, the only other big BJP leader, besides Narendra Modi, who has a stadium named after him is Arun Jaitley, and this too happened recently. Jaitley was Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) president for a long time and played a major role in the advancement of the game in the country, something that everyone is aware of.

As far as Narendra Modi is concerned, in more than 12 years as chief minister of Gujarat and six years as the PM, he has not named a single government scheme after himself and has not allowed his name to be used for any government building. The BJP is in power in many parts of the country and Modi is popular not just in the country, but outside too. However, Modi has not allowed his name to be used for any building in any part of the country.

As far as accusations of lowering the prestige of Sardar Patel are concerned, even raising such an issue is ridiculous. Seven months before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when the bhoomi pujan for building a statue of Sardar Patel in Kevadiya, Gujarat, was performed in October 2013, everybody thought this was an election eve stunt. But in less than four years, Modi ensured that in the tribal belt of Kevadiya, the largest statue of Sardar Patel was built. He also ensured that development work was carried out in Kevadiya so that the world would notice it. It goes without saying that today Kevadiya is one of the biggest centres of tourist attraction. Besides Sardar, Modi has worked to preserve the memories of national leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, has organised big programmes in their name or built huge memorials for them.

And as far as Rahul Gandhi’s question of ‘we two, our two’ is concerned, he should learn or should ask his advisers to inform him that it has been an old tradition to name the main pavilions of the stadium after the names of companies or industrial groups. On one occasion, then a prominent Gujarat leader in his Congress party who was also a deputy CM in the last Congress government in the state, Narhari Amin had taken the help of business houses to improve the condition of the old Motera stadium when he was president of the GCA.

In 1992-93, after becoming the GCA president, Amin came to know that the association had a debt of around Rs 8 crore and no fund was available to repair the stadium. In such a situation, he took Rs 20 crore each from Adani Group and GMDC (Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation), a Gujarat government company, and allowed the two pavilions to be named after them and completed the construction of the stadium. On naming pavilions after Adani as well as the Reliance groups, the simple reason behind this is that both these industrial groups have contributed a large sum for the construction of this stadium.

And as for Jay Shah, this young Shah has got this stadium completed in record time with the help of Parimal Nathwani, who is associated with the Reliance Group and is a Rajya Sabha member, and his son Dhanraj Nathwani, and that too without any government help. India can be proud of this. But instead of celebrating the feat of building the biggest cricket stadium in the world, politicking is done by raising the slogan of ‘we two, our two’, which is of no consequence. On the contrary, those who know things will counter it with the slogan ‘we three, our twenty-two’. And, the Congress and its leaders will find it hard to counter this.

The 22 stadia named after the members of Nehru-Gandhi family are:

1. Rajiv Gandhi Sports Stadium, Bawana

2. Rajiv Gandhi National Football Academy, Haryana

3. Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Visakhapatnam

4. Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Puducherry

5. Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Itanagar

6. Rajiv Gandhi Badminton Indoor Stadium, Kochi

7. Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Ernakulam

8. Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex, Singhu

9. Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Sports Stadium, Guwahati

10. Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad

11. Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Kochi

12. Rajiv Gandhi Cricket Stadium, Dehradun

13. Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, Delhi

14. Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, New Delhi

15. Indira Gandhi Stadium, Una, Himachal Pradesh

16. Indira Gandhi Stadium, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh

17. Indira Priyadarshini Stadium, Visakhapatnam

18. Indira Gandhi Stadium, Deogarh, Rajasthan

19. Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi

20. Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Coimbatore

21. Nehru Cricket Stadium, Pune

22. Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai

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first published:February 25, 2021, 18:12 IST
last updated:February 25, 2021, 18:15 IST
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