Sachin Tendulkar will begin a new innings as a Rajya Sabha MP.
Constitutional expert Bhupendra Chaube (no seriously, he is THE expert. Read the details here.) sent a barrage of tweets yesterday.
"Will we now see " god " of cricket in parliament? Cong proposes sachin tendulkar's name to the rajya saba"
"But frankly, what is it that Sachin can do in Politics at this stage? Bal Thackeray wont forgive him if he takes up cong membership"
"Imagine, Sachin speaking on a contentious issue like Bofors, That will be something"
The extremely well informed Bhupendra Chaube also happens to be the National Bureau Chief of CNN-IBN - you would think all the above is true or might even happen. Now let's get back to some civics lessons that we learnt in school.
The actual strength of the Rajya Sabha is 245 members. 233 of them are elected from various states (by the elected representatives of those states, MLAs/MLCs). 12 of them are nominated by the President (technically the government of the day recommends to the President). The criteria for choosing these members is:
"...amongst persons having special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, art and social service"
These members need not be members of any political party. They are not obliged to join any political party. Infact, these members cannot even vote in the Presidential election. The full list of such nominated members is here. Barring a very few exceptions, we can see that this list is filled with people who are genuine experts in their fields. On a side note, the biggest aberration in this list is that pompous Mani Shankar Aiyar (who needs to be boycotted for reasons mentioned here).
As you can see, the list has some eminent personalities (artists, scientists, musicians, writers etc) that we easily recognize - M.F.Hussian, Lata Mangeshkar, Dr. Bimal Jalan, Dr. C.Narayana Reddy (from AP), Dr. Raja Ramanna, Prof. M.S.Swaminathan etc. When I took a look at the list, I also realised that there are so many experts on which we had no idea about :(. More reading beckons on these experts.
Most of these members have not joined any political party. Sadly, most of these members haven't participated in any debates; haven't asked any questions related to their field; and their fields haven't benefitted much from their elevation to this position. This calls for a healthy debate on some guidelines to be set for such nominated members. This cannot be a honorary post by any means. But that debate is for another day.
So the government of the day is entitled to nominate persons having special knowledge in the aforementioned fields. Sachin Tendulkar does not fit into any of those fields. I am not sure if the above fields are binding by law though.
We therefore now busted the first two myths by the constitutional expert Bhupendra Chaube. It is the government that proposes, not any party. And Sachin hasn't joined any political party (as of now). Being a nominated member of Rajya Sabha does not amount to joining politics. Mere speculations by people in responsible positions will do no good - but we are digressing.
Now let's come to the third myth. It is not necessary for every member to talk about every single issue in Parliament. Sadly, our members of Parliament are not as intelligent as these news anchors to have a strong opinion on anything and everything under the sun. Second and most importantly - why should Sachin (or anyone who is an expert in another field) not have an opinion on Bofors? Why the contempt that people from one background cannot have an opinion on other aspects of public life?
Sachin Tendulkar met Sonia Gandhi yesterday. Only ESPN-Cricinfo mentions that he met the Prime Minister too. No other news outlet mentioned this. After these meetings, the announcement came that Sachin has been recommended to the Rajya Sabha. In this backdrop, it is but natural to assume that the appointment had political overtunes. Is the Congress party trying to gain political mileage with this? I have no doubt in my mind that it is trying to do it. Soon it will take credit for giving representation to the aspirations of the youth etc.
Does Sachin have political aspirations? Is he joining the congress party? We don't know yet. If he does, my personal respect towards him as a person will come down a bit (not that it matters). The exalted position I (and many) hold him as a player will not diminish even by a wee bit.
But what will he do in the Rajya Sabha? This is an opportunity for Sachin to voice the problems of sports exclusively. He has been nominated from this field, and this is his golden opportunity to bring about changes in sports (and not just cricket) in the country. Will he be able to take such a lead role? His past record as a leader does not inspire confidence for sure. But shouldn't we wait for a while before judging him?
Should he have accepted the invitation? Frankly, upon first hearing this, I was disappointed. But upon reflecting, there is really no reason to judge his decision currently. We will know if it was the right decision or not, 6 years from now.
The outrage though is primarily because the depths to which the congress party has plunged the polity in our country. Anyone who is remotely seen as being associated with the party automatically have to face a huge backlash. Like some fellow tweeters commented, the outrage has some political message in it too - anyone associating themselves with the congress now will be seen as taboo too. It is important to debate the pathetic leadership that bought us to this stage.
The outrage against this perceived political affliation towards Congress aside, the other disturbing thing is the outrage against him personally. He never asked for the demi-god status many of us accorded him. No one is perfect in this world. His actions in asking for tax rebates etc might not be inspiring but surely those are no cause to pour bile on him? Some question if he will play or attend the Rajya Sabha when it is in session. Don't we all know that it is not mandatory to attend the house every single day? This Prime Minister himself doesn't do it, why this unfair expectation from Sachin then?
By being a member of Parliament, Sachin has now entered the sphere of public service. He is and must be accountable for his stint in the Rajya Sabha. If he doesn't perform, let's question him about it. But I'd suggest that we a little bit patient about this too.
And lastly, the media
TV media as expected went agog with this news. They were entirely successful in conveying the message that Sachin can now be equated with the congress party. Congress party might even gain electorally with this, given the huge amount of fan following he has (any additional votes are welcome to the congress kitty!). Even regional media front-paged/headlined this news item. Though, it was not a banner headline in the newspapers.
Along with Sachin, actor Rekha and activist Aga (who is a member of the Sonia Gandhi led NAC) were also nominated.Fat chance that many even know about Aga (or for that matter there is a nomination process!). Those who follow me on twitter know very well about MAA Music channel :). Today morning, the anchor on MAA Music was thrilled at Sachin's appointment and views this as an honour to him by our government. Congress ka goal achieved :D