The Centre’s decision to rename the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the country’s highest sporting honour, after hockey legend Dhyan Chand was not the wish of the people but a political move, the Shiv Sena said on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the renaming of the award on August 6, and added that the government had received requests from people across the country in this regard.

Responding to the announcement, an editorial in the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana said that while there could be differences of opinion in a democracy, the contributions of past prime ministers towards the country’s progress should not be the subject of mockery.

“Major Dhyan Chand could have been honoured even without insulting Rajiv Gandhi’s sacrifice,” the editorial said, referring to the former prime minister’s assassination.

“Now, some leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party ask whether Rajiv Gandhi ever held a hockey stick in his hand,” the Shiv Sena said. “Their question is valid. But the Sardar Patel stadium in Ahmedabad was renamed after Narendra Modi. What, then, are Mr Modi’s achievements in cricket?”

“To rename an award after Dhyan Chand only to remove the reference to Rajiv Gandhi is politics of malice,” the editorial said. “Instead, another significant award could have been announced in the name of Dhyan Chand.”

With the renaming of the Khel Ratna, there are now two sporting awards named after the hockey legend. The other award is the “Dhyan Chand Award for Life-time Achievement in Sports and Games”, which was introduced in 2016. It honours Indians who have contributed to sports by their performance and continue to contribute to promotion of sports even after their retirement from active sporting career.

The Shiv Sena said that while the Modi government was now celebrating the medals won at the Olympics, it “cut the sports budget by about Rs 300 crore in the past few years”.

This year, the Centre allocated Rs 2,596.14 crore for sports in the financial year 2021-’22. This was a reduction of Rs 230.78 crore when compared to the amount earmarked for the previous year.