Badminton ace Saina Nehwal is "upset" that her quest to know the reason behind the rejection of her nomination for Padma Bhushan snowballed into a big controversy, saying that she never demanded the prestigious award and would respect the decision of the Sports Ministry.
"I didn't really like the way media put it that I have demanded the award. Who am I to demand the award. I am nobody. I am a sportsperson. I play for my country. I just wanted to know why my name was not considered. I just wanted the eligible players' name to be considered. That's all. Finally what the panel decides is what I am going to respect," said Saina.
"My work is just to play for my country and win as many medals as possible. Rest, I don't know why I was simply put into this controversy and Sushil (Kumar) is a great friend and people have made it really big. I am really upset about it. This is not the right way to put it," she said.
Talking about two-time Olympic medallist Wrestler Sushil Kumar, whose name was recommended by Sport Ministry to the Ministry to Home Affairs as a special case, Saina said: "Me and Sushil always speak to each other. We are from the same place as well, Haryana. There is nothing wrong between us. I will be very happy if Sushil gets the award."
The Sports Ministry decided to recommend Saina for the Padma Bhushan award but insisted that it did not receive her nomination from the Badminton Association of India (BAI) within the stipulated deadline.
"In view of the achievements of Ms. Saina Nehwal, the Department of Sports has decided to recommend her case for Padma Bhushan to the Ministry of Home Affairs as a special case although the last date for making the recommendation is long over," the Ministry said in a statement.
Thanking Sport Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Saina said: "I am thankful to Mr Sonowal Sir for doing this and it's a great support." On Saturday, a disappointed Saina had stated that BAI had recommended her name for the Padma Bhushan in August last year but the Sports Ministry rejected her application, citing norms.
Saina took to Twitter on January 3 to express her displeasure at being told that she has to wait for five years for being nominated for the next Padma award since she received her Padma Sri in 2010.
Decide the awards— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 3, 2015
In a series of tweets, Saina said she was cited rules when she raised the issue of the awards with the ministry.
I got the Padma Shri in 2010 and there is a policy that u can get the next Padma award only after 5 years and this year I completed my five— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 2, 2015
by sports ministry of india .— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 2, 2015
When I sent my file in 2014 for the Padma Bhushan award the ministry said u have to follow the rules and submit the application after 5— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 2, 2015
Years so my file got rejected last year and I again applied this year for the award . I read that Sushil Kumar name is recommended by the— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 2, 2015
Sports ministry and he is not completed 5 years as a special case but even i won the Olympic bronze medal in 2012 and won many titles in2014— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 2, 2015
I won the commonwealth games gold in 2010 and I m world number 4. As a player we feel good when we get such a great award and it motivates .— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 2, 2015
I hope sports ministry look up to this and I will be more than happy if both me and Sushil gets the award as we both won medals in 2012— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 2, 2015
Olympics . But I think rule is rule for me they said u have to wait for 5 years to get the award .— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 2, 2015
As the controversy over Saina being recommended for the Padma award grew, questions were raised about why other sportspersons could not avail of the same discretion used in case of the badminton star.
"If the ministry is ready to accommodate a nomination after the deadline, then why not make a special case for London Olympic medallist shooter Gagan Narang, who got the Olympic medal a year after getting the Padma Shri and also won medals in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Or, for Beijing Olympic medallist Vijender Singh, who got the Padma Shri in 2010, and went on win gold at the 2010 Asian Games and silver at the 2014 CWG," Saurabh Duggal, writing for Hindustan Times, asked.
Duggal argued that the same rule should also apply for wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, he said.