Mr Kiren Rijiju is one of the few popular politicians from North East India, who is recognised nationally. Hailing from a small village in Arunachal’s West Kameng district, the 48-year-old has multiple union ministries under his belt.
He is the current Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Minister of State in the Ministry of Minority Affairs of India.
He graduated from Hansraj College who’s alumni include Shahrukh Khan, Anurag Kashyap and Parvin Dabas. He was assigned the Union ministry role for the second consecutive time as the BJP led NDA government came to power in 2019 with a historic mandate. Prior to that, Rijiju was the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Today, however, Mr Kiren Rijiju is one of the most pro-active ministers in the Modi government’s cabinet. Indian athletes couldn’t have asked for a better minister as Rijiju is sports savvy himself. His videos demonstrating physical fitness exercises is enough to make civilians roll out of their beds and start working out. His video posts from the gym or doing pushups also go viral on the Internet.
Not only is he a sports enthusiast himself, but he was also named the best athlete in his school and college days and participated in the National Games. Only a handful of politicians can lay claim to that.
Kiren Rijiju wants to make India a sporting powerhouse
One of the tasks that Mr Kiren Rijiju has undertaken is to make India a sporting powerhouse. In January, earlier this year, he was present in Goa to inaugurate five indoor stadiums, which will host the upcoming National Games scheduled to take place in October-November, 2020, pandemic permitting.
While addressing the people there, he stated that India lacks a sporting culture. He wasn’t wrong in saying that. Apart from Cricket, very few sport get viewership that is feasible enough for advertisers to spend their money on. As per BARC, Cricket generates 93% of all sports viewership generated in India.
“We are trying to create the culture of sports in the country. Today, I was sharing this thought with officers also that we are a country which has not been able to exploit its sporting potential at the international level,” the minister said.
“Goa has good football culture like the northeast and West Bengal. Barring this, India has not been able to develop sports culture. For Indians, sports is not a way of life, which is reality,” he added.
“In some big international events that have happened in India, not even five per cent of stadiums get filled with spectators,” he rued.
He also stated that government alone can’t do everything to promote the culture of sports in India. He took the example of cricket and stated that if people start watching other sports like they do cricket, the money will automatically start coming.
“Many people say cricket gets money and other sports not. You start watching various games and money will come. If you play football match and there is a competition then money will start pouring in,” he stated.
“Businessmen will put money where people will watch. It is the people who create a sports culture. The government can only create a platform,” he said.
While Mr Kiren Rijiju has continuously led his efforts to improve sporting infrastructure in India, he is also venturing into sports that his predecessors previously didn’t pay enough attention to.
Last month, he visited an ITBP camp in Uttrakhand to provide sporting facilities to promote winter games in India.
As discussed when I visited the ITBP camp at Auli, Sports Ministry has decided to provide some Winter Sports facilities to the ITBP to promote #KheloIndia Winter Games in India. pic.twitter.com/Mdg8N3ZNCU
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) June 15, 2020
During the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the whole country is in partial lockdown, the sporting events have been cancelled nationally and internationally. While the sporting events may not take place for a while, he reached out to sports personalities via the web.
A few months ago, he also met 11 National Sports Federations (NSFs) and discussed their future plans, keeping in mind the upcoming Olympic games scheduled to take place in Tokyo, Japan next year.
Increasing the medal tally at the Olympics
One of the most important aspect that Mr Kiren Rijiju has taken a hard look at is increasing India’s medal tally at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
After the 2020 Olympic games were postponed, he stated that his ministry will do its best to provide better opportunities to the athletes and make sure India achieves its best medal tally in 2021.
One of his main goals when he took over the charge of Sports Ministry, was to increase India’s medal tally at the Olympic games. Mr Kiren Rijiju has high hopes from athletes in general and by 2028, he hopes that India breaks in to top 10 position at the Los Angeles Olympic games.
“The 2024 Games is mid-term goal but the long term is 2028. When I became the sports minister, I had very limited talents, potential Olympic medallists. In 2024, we will have a potential team which can get us maximum medals,” he said.
“But in 2028 I’ve made my mind very clear we have to be in top-10. And I’m not saying just like that. Our preparation has started. Junior athletes are our future champions, we have started our preparation in a solid way. We will see results in 2024 and will make rapid progress. But mark my words, India will be in top-10 in 2028. We are creating a conducive atmosphere, support staff towards that.”
Supporting athletes at a grass-root level
While established athletes are already getting top-notch training and infrastructure facilities, he is aiming to improve the infrastructure and support at a grass-root level.
“To create a world champ, it will take four to eight years. I’ve laid the foundation now. We have started junior coaching very professionally. We are providing best possible coaching and technical support. It will require four to eight years to become champion,” he said.
he also instructed the different SAI’s to take steps to keep their athletes motivated during the lockdown. He also made sure that the stipends are being released to all the junior athletes.
“We have not stopped the stipends. We have released the money for all the junior athletes too. We have cleared all of them and not a penny is pending.”
He is also extremely popular amongst athletes for his quick response time and his ability to bring change.
“He has done alot of good things. I see improvement in every sport. He personally often comes to visit us to support us and boost our morale,” world championship medalist Jamuna Boro said.
“He believes in creating an overall sporting culture in our country and encouraging more parents at the grassroots level to let their children participate in sports, which is great,” Lovlina Borgohain, who is the first female athlete from Assam to qualify for the Olympics said.
“He has been an outright sports enthusiast about sports. His passion towards sports, especially football, encourages everyone to push harder on the field. He follows every single Indian athlete across every single discipline and interacts over social media platforms. His encouraging words and insightful schemes from the sports ministry keeping the athletes’ benefits in mind secure numerous athletes who have represented the country or foresees to attain the same in the coming days,” added Indian international footballer Pritam Kotal on Mr Rijiju.
“Players now get timely rewards after winning medals which motivates them to perform better and give them financial security. Even the training facilities at our camps is better now. We are getting more exposure which is important for our success,” World Championship Silver medalist Manju Rani said in a statement to Sports India Show.
The athletes know of Mr Kiren Rijiju’s impact on sport in the country. Soon India and the rest of the world will know it too.