By Kalyani Shankar
Should the cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar reject his Rajya Sabha nomination? Was there any politics behind the super cricket star’s nomination? Should he have got Bharat Ratna instead? Will Sachin join politics? These are some of the questions, being debated after the “Little master” has been nominated to the upper house last week.
Sachin Tendulkar has won laurels not only for himself but also for the country. Wisden ranked Tendulkar as the second greatest test batsman of all time, behind Donald Bradman. He has played more Tests (188) and one-day internationals (463) than any other player since his debut in 1989. He is the first batsman to complete 100 international centuries last month.
With such a splendid track record why should the nomination create sharp reaction from several quarters? A snap online poll in the Hindustan Times revealed 68% of respondents did not want Sachin in parliament. Times of India criticized the nomination as a populist move in its editorial. There are other editorials, which welcomed the move. Opposition parties dub it as opportunistic politics.
As for the first question why should Sachin Tendulkar reject the offer? The” little master” as he is affectionately called by millions of his fans richly deserves to become a member of the upper house although he would be one of the youngest members. He did the right thing by graciously accepting it. No doubt the initiative must have come from 10 Janpath. May be Sonia Gandhi is a cricket fan or may be her children might have suggested this gesture. Did she not go to Mohali to watch the Indo – Pak cricket match? Did not the Gandhi children Rahul and Priyanka travel to Pakistan to witness a cricket match? So 10, Janpath certainly has a link with the cricket world.
There are some who fear that Sachin has shown his political inclinations too soon and eyebrows are raised at his calling on UPA chief Sonia Gandhi last week soon after the news spread in the city. After all he is not even 40 and once he retires from cricket, politics could be one of the avenues available to him. A taste of Rajya Sabha would help him decide on his future career. In any case he is not the only cricketer who has chosen politics as his avocation. There are many before him including – Navjyot Singh Siddhu, Chetan Chauhan, Kirti Azad, and Mohammad Azharuddin. He can also take a leaf out of Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan who has even floated his own party.
Sachin has the distinction of entering Rajya Sabha in the nominated category while the others are in electoral politics. A nominated member has six months to decide whether he wants to be attached to a party. This is where Sachin has shown his premature inclination by calling on Sonia Gandhi.
As for the second question whether there was any politics behind his sudden nomination, it has certainly provoked political reactions. The Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has called his nomination as the Congress party’s “ dirtiest play,” in his editorial in the party mouthpiece “ Saamna. ” Yoga Guru Ramdev sees the move as the Congress party’s defence against opposition attacks. Baba Ramdev feels that awarding Bharat Ratna would have been a better honor for the super cricket star. Why should not Sachin become the Rajya Sabha M.P first and then also get the Bharat Ratna later?
There is yet another argument that the constitution does not provide nomination of cricketers to the House of Elders. This argument falls flat as there is no journalist category but some journalists had been nominated. The government seems to have done its homework as Home Minister P. Chidambaram has clarified that Sachin Tendulkar’s nomination “ is perfectly valid.” Moreover, Rajya Sabha is meant for eminent persons who would not like to contest. These nominations are all the more relevant today when the money power plays an important role in getting elected to Parliament.
The West Bengal angle is always part of the cricket story. The CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta has now come up with the demand that former Cricket captain Saurav Ganguli too should have been considered. May be it will be his turn next.
The politics among the cricketers too was evident when the former cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar raised eyebrows at Sachin accepting the honor. “Frankly, I am at a loss for words. I never realized these sort of things interested him.” Why not Mr. Manjrekar, why not?
Then there are others who believe that he would not have enough time to perform his duties as an M.P and combine it with his cricket obligations. The simplest answer to this is that Parliament sits for only about six months. There have been many other legendary MPs like Lata Mangeshkar, Dharmendra and Govinda and Vijaya Shanti who made rare appearances in Parliament. Secondly, even full time politicians like Azharuddin are not very active. Jhaved Akthar is yet to make his maiden speech even after two years because he is waiting for the passage of the copyrights bill. Kirti Azad and Siddhu have been quite active and attend the house regularly.
As for the third question about conferring Bharat Ratna on the “Little master” perhaps this honor too would be bestowed on him later. He is just 39 and has enough time to get Bharat Ratna.
Sachin seems to have the last word when he said this week “I have been nominated because I am a sportsman and not a politician.” He lifted the spirits of his millions of fans when he declared that “I am a sportsman and I will always remain a sportsman. I am not going to enter politics giving up cricket which is my life.” Being a perfectionist in life, Sachin may still floor his critics by his performance in Parliament. (IPA Service)