“Sachin Tendulkar took a very awkward decision to become a member of Rajya Sabha,” reads a tweet by one of the cricketer’s millions of fans. The news of Tendulkar’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha has triggered a debate on whether he took the right decision by accepting the membership of the Upper House. More specifically, the question now being asked is whether he will be able to do justice to his new role of a parliamentarian by making time for the Rajya Sabha from his extremely busy cricketing schedule.
Looking back at the performance of nominated members of the Rajya Sabha, a very dismal picture of their participation in the proceedings of the house emerges. Senior political expert Anil Shidore said that whether it is former nominated members of the Rajya Sabha like Vyjayanthimala and Sharmila Tagore or a current nominated member like Javed Akhtar, their performance in the Uper House has not been up to the mark.
“When the Union Government nominates members from various fields to the Rajya Sabha, the sole reason behind it is that these members should contribute to the proceedings of the house with their wealth of knowledge and help to have a mature debate in the house,” Shidore said. “Another expectation behind nominating these dignitaries is that when a debate happens on a particular issue related to their fields, these nominated members would hold sway in the house and help the house by going over the issue in depth.”
Shidore said that contrary to the expectations, nominated members were generally seen to be absent from the house because of their busy schedules and so were unable to contribute to the subject at hand even if it is related to their field.
“When their names come up for nomination, these dignitaries always have the right to refuse it. Therefore, it would be better to not accept the nomination if they are not sure they will be able to attend the parliamentary sessions,” Shidore said.
Nominated members of Parliament are chosen if they have special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, art or social service.
A perusal of the official website of the Parliament, www.parliamentofindia.nic.in, which gives information on the attendance of members of Parliament as well as the questions raised by them and the debates they participated in, shows that a vast majority of nominated members of the Rajya Sabha have hardly ever raised questions or taken part in debates since the last Budget Session.
Bollywood personality Javed Akhtar, a current nominated member of the Rajya Sabha whose term is till 2016, was present for only 56 of the 119 sittings of the Upper House since the Budget Session last year and did not raise any questions.
Ashok Ganguly, a scientist and former chairman of Hindustan Lever Ltd, attended nine sittings more than Akhtar. In the 65 Rajya Sabha sittings he was present for of the 119 since February 21, 2011 to March 30 this year, he raised four questions.
The record of some non-nominated members of the Rajya Sabha is also not encouraging. MP Vijay Mallya attended only 35 sittings of the 119.
“For many of these members, having attended sittings doesn’t mean they have taken part in the proceedings,” Prakash Pawar, a political expert, said.
He added that when it came to choosing between their professional commitments and the parliamentary proceedings, a vast majority of the nominated members gave preference to giving time for their work in their respective fields and so they often took leave from Rajay Sabha sessions or simply marked their attendance and left the house.
“In case of Sachin Tendulkar, his name has been nominated by the Congress keeping in view the 2014 Lok Sabha election. The party is well aware of its reducing popularity. Now it is using Sachin’s name as a means of regaining lost popularity,” Pawar said.
Former IAS officer Avinash Dharmadhikari said: “Being a committed cricketer, Sachin gives daily eight hours for his practice. Therefore, I don’t think he can dedicatedly work in the Rajya Sabha.”