The contribution of nominated members to the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha has been anything but pathetic. Only time will tell if Sachin Tendulkar will prove an exception after his retirement. Anita Katyal reports
When cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar put in a rare appearance on the opening day of the recently-concluded monsoon session of Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told him that the game’s loss would prove to be a gain for the Parliament.
The prime minister had made the comment when Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla told him that Tendulkar would no longer be playing one-day international cricket and would, therefore, be seen more often in Parliament.
But that was not to be. After that brief appearance, Tendulkar was not seen again in Parliament. In fact, he has come to Parliament only twice after his swearing in.
His score during the budget session was a big fat duck.
But now that Tendulkar has decided to call it a day, it is to be seen if the cricketing legend will begin a new innings in the Rajya Sabha and prove the prime minister right.
“Does this mean Tendulkar will start attending Rajya Sabha more regularly now?” said a senior Parliamentarian when told about the cricketer’s decision to retire.
Tendulkar was nominated to the Upper House in April last year along with Bollywood actress Rekha and businesswoman Anu Aga. There was speculation then that his retirement was imminent.
But the cricketer had been quick to scotch these rumours, clarifying that he would continue to concentrate on the game and would shift focus to Parliament only after he stops playing cricket.
“I am here because of my cricketing career. I cannot take any focus away from my cricket. That is where it all started for me. I will focus on my cricket and as and when I stop playing cricket, I don’t know, I will start attending to other things,” Sachin had said.
“Cricket comes first,” he had declared to media persons.
Tendulkar is among 12 members nominated by the President for "special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service."
When Tendulkar’s nomination was announced last year, it had set off a fierce debate.
Questions were raised about picking an active sportsperson who obviously would not be able to do justice to his role as Parliamentarian given his hectic schedule.
The UPA government, it was felt, had wasted two Rajya Sabha seats by recommending Tendulkar and Rekha, as it was highly unlikely they would make any contribution to the proceedings.
Others, including from the cricketing fraternity, felt that Tendulkar should have declined the offer as he would not be able to do justice to his new responsibility.
Sceptics were convinced that the fast-fading Congress-led UPA government was only exploiting Tendulkar’s popularity to redeem itself in the eyes of a disenchanted electorate.
The coming months will show if this is indeed true, as news of Tendulkar’s retirement was immediately picked up Delhi’s hyperactive political grapevine that hinted at the possibility of Tendulkar campaigning for the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Although the cricketer has not officially joined the Congress, these rumours were fuelled by his proximity to Rajeev Shukla, who is known to be fairly resourceful.
As for his role in Parliament, it would be unfair to pick on Tendulkar if he chooses to play truant in the coming days. The contribution of nominated members to the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha has been pathetic.
Singer Lata Mangeshkar was never seen in the Upper House while actor Dilip Kumar was never heard. The renowned painter M F Hussain spent all his time in the House drawing sketches of his colleagues.
Actor Shabana Azmi proved to be an exception as she evinced keen interest in the proceedings and was a regular contributor to the debates. Eminent persons from different fields are nominated essentially so that they can enrich the discussions with their expertise and in-depth knowledge on issues related to their areas.
When well-known writer Narayanan spoke about the plight of school children who were burdened under the “heavy weight of the schoolbag,” it became a subject of national debate. The government set up a special committee to suggest how the school bag could be made lighter and learning more joyful.
But such instances are rare especially in the case of members coming from the film world. They generally absent themselves from the House, according greater preference to their profession.
Time will tell if Tendulkar will prove an exception to this rule.