NEW DELHI: The recommendation of shooter Ronjan Sodhi for the prestigious Khel Ratna Award on Tuesday sparked off a controversy with some members of the selection panel raising questions about the process of his selection.
It is learnt that Sodhi’s name was not there when the majority of members decided to vote for the Khel Ratna awardee but brought back later for consideration.
A selection panel member said that Commonwealth Games gold-medallist discus thrower Krishna Poonia and London Paralympics silver medallist HN Girisha were shortlisted for voting by 11 out of 12 selection panel members and Sodhi’s name was not considered initially.
He said the scenario changed after one member, a former shooter, came in late for the meeting and Girisha’s name was removed and there was voting between Sodhi and Poonia.
“Out of the 12 members of selection panel, excluding two SAI officials, 10 were present when the meeting started. Two members came late for the meeting, the selection panel member said on condition of anonymity.
“10 of us decided that there would be voting between Poonia and Girisha for Khel Ratna. After that we started discussions on Arjuna Awards. But after one member came in , Sodhi was brought back in the fray,” he added.
It is learnt that Poonia was initially tipped for the recommendation as she had more support among the members till Sodhi’s name was brought back.
In the voting — by raise of hands by members — between her and Sondhi, there was a tie and the support he got from SAI officials led to his recommendation, according to the selection panel members.
Another member said that the two SAI representatives, were earlier rooting for Girisha but later supported Sodhi. The SAI officials, however, have no voting rights.
“It was very shameful politics being played in the recommendation of Khel Ratna and I had not imagined this. Earlier, the SAI officials were supporting Girisha when there was to be a voting between him and Poonia,” the selection panel member said.
“But later after Sodhi was brought back, the SAI people supported him. In fact, there was a tie between Poonia and Sodhi, the SAI officials’ support tilted the balance in his favour,” he said.
“Some members even suggested that both Poonia and Sodhi be recommended together as there was earlier instances also but it did not happen,” he added.
Another member of the panel claimed that it was an unanimous decision to recommend Sodhi for the award and there were no differences among members.
When contacted, the chairman of the committee Ferreira, did not comment on what transpired in the meeting.
A dejected Poonia said that she would make her representation to the sports minister Jitendra Singh on Wednesday for the “injustice” meted out to her.
“We will write to the sports minister tomorrow and meet him also if required. Injustice has been done to me. I am really disappointed with had happened in the selection panel meeting,” she said.
“Otherwise, I am more deserving also. I am the first woman athlete from the country to have won an individual Commonwealth Games gold medal and I finished sixth in the Olympics also,” she added.