Yesterday, there was a bizarre news. It hit in two parts. One news headline was Sachin Tendulkar going to meet Sonia Gandhi. The other was the President nominating him to the Rajya Sabha.
The gaga media immediately mentioned him as the first sports person to be nominated to the Parliament. Well, there is a reason for that. No one had noticed that there was an area of the constitution left unsullied until now. This has now been taken care of. As Rohit Bansal quotes the Election Commission of India, in his article on Governance Now:
"Article 80 (3) of the constitution of India provides that the members to be nominated by the president to Rajya Sabha should have special knowledge or practical experience in matters like literature, science, art and social service."
But that is just one part of it. I suppose, like Sachin called himself an actor for tax purposes, he could call himself one for Parliament purposes as well. The real questions are, who is Sachin Tendulkar as a whole person beyond the sportsman, what is his utility to the Parliament, and what does it mean for the country.
Sachin Tendulkar is a cricketer. He is the world's best batsman. He has a clean image in cricket so far beyond a 2001 accusation of ball tampering, which is rendered irrelevant at this point through sheer performance. So far, so good. His image as a citizen took a solid trouncing when he claimed duty exemptions for the Ferrari he received as a gift. It is true that the customs duty was 120% which kind of defeats the idea of a gift, but the whole point is that this is what it is for all Indians. Please note that he also sold it.
Further shameful evasion was on display when he used his celebrity endorsements in ads to call himself an actor and pay less tax, under section 80 RR of I-T Act. Then, he violated the MOFA (Maharashtra Ownership Flat Act) when he performed the "grihapravesh" of his home without an Occupation Certificate from the builder. Considering that we do have MPs with far worse cases filed against them, this is not exactly earth shattering. However as a public personality, it is a visible disregard for the laws of the land and the spirit guiding them.
What would Sachin Tendulkar contribute to the Parliament is an important question with no real answer. He has shown no particular interest in the well being of the country beyond the occasional messages for vaccinations or autism awareness tweet - which pretty much everyone does. He hasn't shown any particular opinion on politics or development in the country. He hasn't had any particular affiliations in politics either.
However, the idea of the nominated posts is presumably so that non political influences of excellence in areas needing development in the country are available in the governance of the country. Sachin's career as a cricketer is still on. When is he going to attend the Parliament? Even if he did, cricket has to be among the most well spread influences in the country already - in fact, to the point of crowding out other sports, including the National sport hockey - not something that particularly needs further reinforcement in government policies as such.
With this information in mind, it becomes difficult to ignore the more cynical view of his neutrality and lack of outspokenness as well as his tremendous crowd pulling capacity being the real assets in this nomination. That this nomination has been suggested by a party floundering in both politics and credibility makes this look like a "match fixing" move on the National level, rather than any particular contribution to the country.
What do the people get? Nothing in particular. Sachin is not a National hero for anything related to politics, and unless he does an Imran Khan, the nomination is unlikely to damage his fan base across political parties. On the other hand, his popularity is going to make opposing anything he supports difficult for reasons that will have nothing to do with good or bad decisions and everything to do with popular hero having a mass following - the question really is if he manages to retain autonomous opinions, or if he becomes part of endorsing political stands - a reasonable apprehension seeing as who suggested his nomination. Looking at where we are in our journey toward evolving as a democracy, we have had a year of turbulence related with corruption, disillusioned with people in power writing their own rules, and dazzled by the aura of a National hero, we are still supporting the same traits to power. Still turning a blind eye and excusing them selectively in the name of popularity. After all, isn't popularity how the corrupt politicians got elected too?
Perhaps this move of the politicians is brilliant only because it subtly psychological-pushes citizens back in the direction of a status quo they briefly tried to fight, where you get some "good qualities" pointed out and the erosion of National interest is the "acceptable price". If we swallow this, then the next pill will be slightly bigger, and slightly bigger till we are back to swallowing the entire Parliament again.
On a personal note, he should be made Prime Minister, because he speaks about as much as our current one. He should be made president because he followed the great con man promoter of blind faith - Sai Baba like our previous president, and thinks nothing of bending rules for personal profit at the expense of the country like our current one.