NEW DELHI: No stadium is named after a living person, not even after a living player.
President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday set a precedent by inaugurating the Narendra Modi Stadium at Motera in Ahmedabad, which was hitherto known as Sardar Patel Cricket Stadium.
Lest the renaming sends a wrong signal, President Kovind also laid the foundation stone of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Sports Enclave at the stadium which is spread over 63 acres of land with three entrances and has an Olympic-size swimming pool.
‘‘This stadium was conceptualised by PM Modi when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. He was president of the Gujarat Cricket Association at that time," President Kovind said in his address after the inauguration, putting the renaming in perspective.
The Congress, however, responded to the renaming by criticising the BJP. Taking a swipe, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet, "Beautiful how the truth reveals itself."
Hailed by Home Minister Amit Shah as the world's biggest cricket ground, the stadium has a seating capacity of 1.32 lakh that can host two different games on the same day, but only half of it will be filled for the two Test matches against England because of the Covid pandemic.
The stadium has 76 air-conditioned corporate boxes with a seating capacity of 25 each. The stadium also has a club house with 55 rooms, gymnasium, indoor practice pitches and food courts. Instead of flood lights, LED lights have been installed on the roof of the stadium.
Home Minister Amit Shah said Ahmedabad has become a world class sports hub and can host any international sports event at a short notice. He said no stadium in the world can boast of similar facilities and infrastructure.
The Gujarat Cricket Association expects not less than 50,000-60,000 fans during the third Test. PM Modi is also expected to drop by.
In a veiled reference to the RSS, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said in a tweet, "Maybe they just realised the stadium was named for a Home Minister who had banned their parent organisation!" "Or maybe this is advance booking to ensure the next visiting Head of State is hosted here, like Trump? Or is this the beginning of a legacy-creation-thru-labelling spree?" Shashi Tharoor went on to say.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad responded to criticism of the government over the renaming. "Sonia Gandhi and others never visited Kevedia to pay respect to Sardar Patel statue. And now they are talking about insulting Sardar Patel," Prasad said.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said BJP leaders do not believe that subsequent governments will name anything after them.