Friday, April 27, 2012

Sachin as an MP - the myth, facts and opinions



Sachin Tendulkar will begin a new innings as a Rajya Sabha MP.

The Myth

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 Facts

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. 

The opinions.

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 

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice balanced commentary. I think people are jumping the gun in judging him even before he has had his chance to take oath as RS member.
Rather than questining Sachin on his taking this RS seat, people need to question the government of the Day on the motive of nominating Sachin. Sachin has never been in the forefront on taking any stand on either issues facing the nation, or issues facing Cricket (forget other sports), so I am not too sure how he will contribute, but lets not pre judge him. Lets wait and watch.

Lastly, If Congress was hoping to to gain credibility by nominating Sachin, I dont think it has happened, on the contrary, going by reaction, Sachin seems to be loosing his in the bargain...

Nitesh Pandey said...

Nicely put however you not liking Sachin if he joins politics is hard to understand, what's wrong in joining politics. Nice Civics Review and scribes like Bhupendra Chaubey can go to any extent to draw attention.

Anonymous said...

Excellent read, thank you. It is almost impossible to find balanced perspectives these days.

Amar said...

Balanced take though I must say I was as disappointed as you were that Sachin chose to accept the nomination.

Being a discretionary decision of the government (and by extension the Congress party) what this can also mean is that Sachin has accepted the patronage of the Government (and by extension the Congress party, this reinforced by his visit to 10 JP yesterday). If one is patronised by the Establishment then the one would be demanded something in return. What it will be only time will tell!

Sudhir said...

Hi Nitesh. I believe there is nothing wrong if he joins politics. I only have a problem if he joins the Congress party :)

Amar - yeah, time only will tell :)

Both Anonymous - thank you :)

-Sudhir

BrhmaGyan said...

I am a staunch SRT fan.
There is nothing wrong with Sachin. He has been offered a loose delivery of pension and he will cash on it, like any other mortal (yes i just downgraded him from the position of God).
The problem that troubles is that he has zero experience of governance. He has not been associated with any social cause. He has been mum through everything that was happening around him. His sudden interest in the governance of the country raises suspicion. I smell a Ambani.

col surender singh said...

Lets not prejudge Sachin? History replete with examples where the least expected people have brought in far reaching changes?
We the tax payer will be paying Sachin (as also all other MPs) the least we expect is:-
Firstly.Attend parliament through the day for at least 90% of the time!
Secondly. If unable to attend parliament than gracefully resign and don't be a burden on the taxpayer!
Thirdly. Attempt to remove the evils afflicting sports federations, including exclusion of all others expect sports persons of that stream from all such bodies!
Fourthly. Take stand on some of the issues affecting the commoners?
Fifthly. Expose the mis-deeds of other MPs which you learn about during the chai/tiffen breaks?
Having been given a chance, make a mark that we will remember you by, not as someone who was also nominated and did nothing like other's before you?
GOOD LUCK & GOD BLESS1

Freaky said...

As far as I know, Anu Aga actually deserves to be nominated. She was head of Thermax and was instrumental for incorporating professional leadership. She also heads Teach for India.

Anonymous said...

Good one except I disagree on Sachin conduct on Tax evasion does tell what sort of person he is. INspite of being one of the richest guy, why does he wants to milk the tax payers money and make profit out of it.

Rahul Sharma said...

i value reading times of india everyday as i am living abroad but if this prestigious newspaper also starts calling sachin as god, then its high time we stop reading this newspaper as it seems timesgroup is also headed towards headline grabbing tactics. it is a shame that our prime minister and sonia-ji could not find other suitable person for the rajya sabha appointment and have recklessly given the honour to sachin who is not even a secondary school graduate. yes, he is a great cricketer who has always played for personal records and accumulation of enormous wealth

Anonymous said...

1. A nominated member can choose to join a political party - after nomination.
2. 'The house of the elders' a.k.a. Rajya Sabha was intended by the Constitution makers to bring about a more "informed debate" on issues of national importance that may not be possible in the more representative lower house (a.k.a. Lok Sabha). The provision for nomination of experts in various fields is also for this reason.
3. Nominating bimbos (and male bimbos) for whatever reason defeats the larger purpose of constituting the RS.

prashhanthkpp said...

While deliberately staying away from this debate, is it not conspicuous that, prior to his nomination, there definitely must have been feelers sent to him for consent. If this being the case, a refusal from ST could have come then. Considering the fact that there has come no objection from him, it should be safely construed that he has agreed for the RS Membership. Now, since such a membership can only be proposed by the ruling coalition led by Congress, would it not be safe to conclude that his comfort would remain with Congress? After all, his name was directly proposed by the Shikandi PM on behalf of Madamji & Prince and authenticated by the apathetic President!

Time will tell, indeed, your honor!!! :)

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