May 26 2020
Sachin Tendulkar in Parliament: House that?
28 April 2012

The tangled skin of India’s political system is, perhaps, too complex for an ordinary citizen’s comprehension. The politics here is fast becoming a contact sport and for a gentleman like Sachin Tendulkar, there could be hardly any place in it. The jury is out on his elevation to the Rajya Sabha, but on the face of it the nomination looks a politically motivated decision.

This was not an out-of-nowhere nomination. His consent, obviously, has been obtained before the announcement was made. Although it is an apolitical appointment, there is every reason to believe that he has allowed his popularity and brand image to be exploited by the ruling Congress party.

For a party reeling under corruption scandals in high places, the Little Master provided the tool with which it could win back some lost ground. It was a populist move that was played to the gallery and Tendulkar, wittingly or unwittingly, agreed to be used by a party in trouble. Also, by visiting the 10 Janpath, he has made his political leanings clear. Engagement with Tendulkar effectively brings in votes. He seems to have failed to see the ulterior interest of the ruling party.

“He will be a misfit,” declared Prahalad Kakkar, the ad guru, who shot Tendulkar’s first commercial. “He will have to do things that may not be to his liking. Some of the topics may be beyond his understanding. He will have to go prepared.”

The question is not where he will fit in the political collectivism of the Rajya Sabha but whether he will fit in at all? Known for his soft speeches and mellowed postures, Tendulkar will have to stretch his vocal cords. But that is not the only thing he would have to do there.

He is entering a cauldron where the loudest not only survives but also rules. Unruliness is not deemed as a disqualification here and Tendulkar, being a cricketer, has proved himself to be gentleman.

For someone like Sanjay Manjrekar, it was a shocking decision. “Actually shocked by the story itself, first by the nomination as it came without any warning. And that Sachin has accepted it is even more shocking. When I visualise what Sachin could possibly do after retirement, I thought something connected to cricket, coaching and all that, may be some business or social activity. But Rajya Sabha MP after retirement or even at this stage of career is something that was not even in my wildest guess,” his one-time teammate was quoted as saying.

In the Rajya Sabha, the members do business of legislation. They discuss, debate and vote on various topics.

Understanding those topics is only half the job. Tendulkar would have to take a position and make a commitment.

The world will watch whether he voted for hike in railway fare or he’s for or against the Lokpal Bill. For someone who has steadfastly avoided commenting on touchy issues — leave alone controversial topics — the Rajya Sabha membership will not only be a test of his convictions but also his pledge to the causes. He will have to be prepared to take position which, hitherto, he has stubbornly avoided. He could have stayed away from this debilitating pitfall.

Education surely is no passport to the Upper House of Parliament, but for an undergraduate, comprehending the complexities of various issues of international, national, regional and local interests may not be that easy. What does he have to say about Jaitapur nuclear plant, Agni V, pullout from the Siachen glaciers and Sino-Indian diplomatic uncertainties? The topics will range from Dalal Street to Wall Street and from Bandra to Baluchistan.

Even Barack Obama’s af-Pak policy will not an alien subject. He often could find himself in a disconcerting quandary. It is more hard work rather than holiday. He can no longer display the shoulder-shrugging casualness to the issues of political, national regional importance. He has been dodging them thus far.
But Kirti Azad thinks he can continue to dodge the touchy issues and still be a successful MP.

A member of parliament himself, Azad looks at the Tendulkar’s nomination as doctorate bestowed on an eminent citizen. “Why should he not be successful? Unlike a Lok Sabha MP, he does not have to worry about his constituency and he could focus on the topics related to sports. I’m confident he will do a good job.”

The other important question is whether he can spare enough time for the job. Legend has it that even someone such as Lata Mangeshkar hardly raised a yelp in the House and was rarely seen in the corridors of the Parliament building.

Last year, Tendulkar was on the field for 67 days of international and IPL cricket, but was involved with the game for over 210 days, including tours and preparations. Most of the Rajya Sabha sittings — particularly the budget and winter sessions — coincide with the cricketing calendar. The batting legend is hardly expected to spare time for the job unless he decides to scupper his ambition of playing on for a few more years.

But Dilip Vengsarkar believes it’s not a bad move. “So far, they were nominating persons from other fields. Now that a sportsman has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha, a good precedent has been set,” said the former India skipper.

But then Tendulkar is not just another Indian sportsman. Not too long ago, he was being talked about as a candidate for Bharat Ratna. One will have to see what the hustle and bustle of Indian politics will do to him.



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