Pusarla Venkata Sindhu proved she is the Indian queen of the badminton court with her stellar performance in Rio but now she is being dragged into an equally competitive battle, off-court. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the two Telugu-speaking states that are daggers drawn on most issues after a bitter divorce in 2014, are now seeing red over the shuttler. Both claim ownership over Sindhu, calling her "mana ammayi" (our girl).
The twist in the tale is that Sindhu, thanks to her parents — former India volleyball players PV Ramana and P Vijaya — belongs to both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Ramana hails from Nirmal in Adilabad district of Telangana while Vijaya is from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, who spent her growing up years in Madras (now Chennai).
To ensure ownership over 'Sindhustan', Sindhu, in the last 24 hours, has been showered with all the sarkaari goodies possible. Andhra Pradesh was first off the blocks with the cabinet announcing a cash reward of Rs 3 crore to Sindhu. A plot of 1,000 square yards in Amaravati, the dream capital that chief minister Chandrababu Naidu is building and a Group-1 officer post in the Andhra government is also part of the package. The choice of post and department has been left for Sindhu to decide.
Coach Pullela Gopichand will be awarded Rs 50 lakh and also land in Amaravati for setting up an academy. Naidu plans to organise a lavish reception for the duo, where Sindhu's Andhra roots will be emphasised.
In the game of political one-upmanship between the two chief ministers, K Chandrasekhar Rao, decided to dip more into his kitty. Telangana announced a cash prize of Rs 5 crore, plot of land in Hyderabad and a Group 1 level officer job as well. The Hyderabad Badminton Association will gift her a BMW car while Gopichand will be awarded Rs one crore. On Monday, the badminton star will be welcomed at the Hyderabad airport and taken to the stadium in a procession for a formal reception.
To ensure that Sindhu is recognised as a Telangana koothuru (daughter of Telangana), her pictures of participating in Bonalu, a festival indigenous to Telangana before she left for Rio, have been widely circulated. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) too has claimed credit for Sindhu, saying she was part of the summer camp for beginners in 2005. Its press note boasted: "GHMC paved the way for the Olympic journey of Sindhu".
To ensure the job offers that are falling into Sindhu's lap do not tempt her, her present employer, Bharat Petroleum has announced a cash reward of Rs 75 lakh and promoted her to the post of deputy manager.
But while the two states claim copyright, it has worked out well for Sindhu financially. Naidu and KCR can compete to score brownie points but at the end of the day, she is India's daughter.
The fight is over Gopichand as well. He is an Andhra boy, hailing from Prakasam district and Naidu, when he was the Chief Minister of an united Andhra in 2003, was instrumental in allotting him 5 acres of land to set up the badminton academy in Hyderabad. But the division and his geographical location in Hyderabad meant that Gopichand now is the secretary of the Badminton Association of Telangana.
A lot has indeed changed in four years. In sharp contrast to the financial bonanza that is now being showered on Sindhu, a cash prize of just Rs 50 lakh was announced by the then Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy to London 2012 bronze medallist Saina Nehwal. In fact, even that amount was not released and in July 2014, Saina tweeted to Telangana minister K T Rama Rao to help her get the cash prize. It was only then that on August 15 that year, Saina received her due.
Saina was also caught between two states. The state where she was born, Haryana tried to woo Saina over to its side by offering her the post of Deputy Superintendent of Police in Haryana police in 2010. Perhaps realising that a danda, instead of a racquet, would look awkward in her hands, Saina declined the offer.
Another ugly fallout of the Sindhu success story is that a campaign has started on social media, asking the Telangana government to replace Sania Mirza as the state's brand ambassador with PV Sindhu.