NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to accept a fitness challenge from Virat Kohli, one of the nation’s top cricketers, has been seized on by opposition politicians who say the leader should be spending time on other challenges — such as reducing fuel prices and creating jobs.
Rajyavardhan Rathore, the nation’s sports minister and an Olympic medalist for shooting, said Modi was the inspiration for the campaign to get Indians to be fitter when it was launched on Tuesday under the Hindi-English slogan “#HumFitTohIndiaFit” (If we are fit, India is fit.”).
“Challenge accepted, Virat! I will be sharing my own #FitnessChallenge video soon,” tweeted Modi, after the batsman had issued his challenge to the prime minister.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 24, 2018
“Now I would like to challenge my wife @AnushkaSharma , our PM @narendramodi ji and @msdhoni Bhai for the same,” Kohli had tweeted.
I have accepted the #FitnessChallenge by @ra_THORe sir. Now I would like to challenge my wife @AnushkaSharma , our PM @narendramodi ji and @msdhoni Bhai for the same. 😀 #HumFitTohIndiaFit #ComeOutAndPlay pic.twitter.com/e9BAToE6bg
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) May 23, 2018
Modi, who is reputed to rise at dawn to do yoga before starting work, pushed for June 21 to be celebrated as the International Day of Yoga soon after winning power in 2014, lending his political weight to an industry that has grown up around the ancient physical and spiritual discipline.
The fitness challenge is partly a response to India’s increasing problem with obesity. But with a general election due by next May, the opposition was quick to politicize the matter.
Opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, also a fitness enthusiast, dared Modi, one of most followed world leaders on Twitter, to take on a fuel challenge.
“Reduce fuel prices or the Congress will do a nationwide agitation and force you to do so,” Gandhi tweeted.
Glad to see you accept the @imVkohli fitness challenge. Here’s one from me:
Reduce Fuel prices or the Congress will do a nationwide agitation and force you to do so.
I look forward to your response.#FuelChallenge
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 24, 2018
Prices of diesel and petrol in India have surged to a record high, stoking opposition criticism of Modi’s administration for causing hardship to ordinary people. The rise is only partly because global oil prices have risen in recent weeks — taxes on the fuel have also climbed in recent years.
Tejashwi Yadav, the chief of regional party Rahtriya Janata Dal, challenged Modi to provide more jobs for the nation’s youth, relief to farmers and to promise safety for minorities.