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Rathore as sports minister: right man, right place

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Rathore: The sportsman is the most important person (1:13)

India's new Sports Minister appeals to keep sportsmen ahead and help the youth of the nation achieve success. (1:13)

There's only one response to the choice of Rajyavardhan Rathore as the new sports minister: about bloody time.

India's first individual silver medallist at the Olympics is the fourth sports minister in the current government over the last three years. To have ignored Rathore the fourth time would have been undeniable proof - of either governmental blindness or political willfulness to ensure that the right man for the job never got it.

Why is Rathore the right man for the job?

His credentials go beyond his sporting performance, as splendid as his Athens Olympics silver medal was. In getting there, Rathore earned a valuable, first-hand experience of jumping through every available hoop in Indian sports administration. He planned his own campaign, sourced funding from the ministry he now heads and discovered the route to achieving success.

It educated him in how the money available for athletes could be made use of and the role of federation officials in controlling the destinies of their athletes. After his shooting career was done, he was to learn about how the structure of Indian sports federations is hard-wired to prevent independent entrants into administration. No other Indian sports minister has had such wide-ranging, hands-on experience of the truths that operate in Indian sport.

Can he outmaneuver babus and federation bosses?

Being put in charge of the ministry sets Rathore right at the top of the tree, which he knows from seed to topmost branch. He also happens to personally know some of the country's finest sporting brains, who will be glad to be on his speed dial for feedback or explanation. His son also happens to be a current junior competitive shooter himself.

More than most sports ministers, Rathore will have access to inputs from every facet of Indian sport and will not be hoodwinked easily either by federation bosses or his own babus. Injeti Srinivas, his powerful and influential sports secretary and Director-General of SAI, will know that.

What can he possibly do?

The issues are old - controversies over government awards schemes, the misuse of public funds by federations as well as by athletes, an anti-doping programme with holes big enough to drive F1 cars through it and the lack of structured competition calendars across most federations.

Rathore, however, enters the ministry with a solid foundation under his feet - and a hot potato in his hands. The foundation is a sports code put into place by the country's best sports minister Ajay Maken. The hot potato is a new version drummed into existence in January 2017, which has turned out to be tougher than had been anticipated.

The outgoing minister Vijay Goel told ESPN that the new code - the National Code for Good Governance in Sport 2017 (NCGGS2017) - is ready to be made public by the end of September. All it needs in real terms is to be notified by the ministry and signed off by the minister. It is however, full of incendiary conditions, including disqualifying some of Rathore's party colleagues from holding sporting office.

Will he disturb this universe?

Depends on which section of the universe is being disturbed. There are many committee reports and review summaries in several sports that can easily be called to order again - for example, the findings of a post-Rio review committee in shooting, whose federation had blocked Rathore from standing for elections. Then an inquiry into the rampant doping in athletics, plus the operations of the National Anti Doping Agency under fire for allegedly having 'rate-charts' for altering athlete samples.

Plus the Ministry could engage with its appointed 'observers' to see how their vast reporting duties can be trimmed into making actionable suggestions that can be implemented by demanding change at the Federation level. Or execute the recommendations from the Olympic Task Force towards planning for next three Olympics and listen to the changes in policy demanded by the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) for talent identification and support for 2020 and 2024.

Yes, but what about the hot potato?

No doubt Rathore will call for some time to study the NCGGS2017 all over again and seek some temperance to keep the peace amongst the political class. To ignore it, however, would be a poor reflection on his status as a rare minister-athlete. So what if he has very little time until the next election? Maken had only 22 months and was able to uproot the established orders of Indian sport and effect real change in sports governance in India. If an elite athlete with knowledge and power won't be able to take bigger strides onwards from where Maken left off, who will?