Over one lakh people, including Bollywood celebrities, cricket stars, politicians and sports enthusiasts, will converge on the country’s first Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday. But India’s sports minister Ajay Maken will not be there.
The organisers slighted him, leaving the minister out of their guest list for the high profile event, ostensibly because Maken rejected their request for concessions this week that would have saved them crores of rupees at the tax payers’ expense. Maken wasn’t surprised at the organisers, Jaypee Sports India (JSI), leaving him out.
“I didn't expect an invite because as sports minister, I refused the demand of Formula One organisers for tax or customs exemption,” Maken said.
He is presently in Kerala to inaugurate a synthetic turf at an academy run by athletic icon, PT Usha, in Calicut.
“Moreover, I am not a star, nor a celebrity, nor an item girl. So why should I be invited,” he said. Later, Maken insisted financial concessions were as good as government grants. “It is an elite and profit-making sport being organised by a private company… why should the exchequer lose any money over it,” a sports ministry official added.
The organisers, meanwhile, denied they had left out the sports minister. “We have sent invitations, not just to the minister but the Prime Minister as well,” said a top JSI official.
A ministry source said what Maken did receive two passes to the event, couriered to his residence on Thursday evening.
“There wasn't even a covering letter,” a government official said.
“This is not how you invite ministers or other dignitaries… particularly the minister incharge,” rued a senior government official.
The minister suggested he would not have been able to make it to Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida since he had already committed to PT Usha.
But protocol required that the minister-incharge — who is the face of the government — be formally invited as a courtesy.
(With inputs from Rohit Bhaskar)