Who is doing disservice to parliament: celebs who skip it in favour of their scheduled presence elsewhere, or those who agree to nominate them despite an inkling of that packed schedule?
Shantanu Datta | August 8, 2014
In Indian parliament, you are either angry or you are absent. On Friday (August 8), some members of parliament were angry over some of their colleagues being regularly absent.
Two of those colleagues got special mention from fellow rajya sabha members: Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Shri Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar and Padma Shri Rekha.
Questioning the absence of their celeb colleagues, CPI MP P Rajeev said, "If they are absent for 60 days, their seats can be vacated."
The issue, of course, has not come to that pass, as rajya sabha chairman Hamid Ansari reminded the esteemed MPs. "No violation of the constitution has occurred," he said.
Lyricist Javed Akhtar, who sports a 48-percent attendance record, said, "Membership of parliament is not a trophy, Sachin should come to Parliament.” Congress MP Rajeev Shukla pointed out that neither Tendulkar nor Rekha had taken a single MP privilege. “They should attend parliament more frequently,” he said.
So what’s the issue that has made MPs worry about attendance of fellow MPs? Rekha, Bollywood grand dame, has an attendance record of 5 percent. Tendulkar -- who BJP leader and former India batsman Kirti Azad reminded, rarely ever missed even practice sessions during his two-and-half decade career -- has fared worse: 3 percent.
For the record, the national average for attendance in the present rajya sabha is 77 percent. Quite impressive, but not outshining the 16th lok sabha’s national average of 88 percent attendance, according to watchdog PRS Legislative’s ‘MP tracker’, which has compiled statistics till August 6.
While the average Indian can only dream of being at a job with that kind of attendance in office, Tendulkar and Rekha will, however, get more grace marks. For rajya sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien, the absence of the celebrity cricketer and actor is yet to register. They have not been absent for more than 60 days, he reminded.
Some more: "As per rules (rules of procedure and conduct of business), if a member is absent from meetings of either house of parliament without permission for a period of 60 days, the house may declare his/her seat vacant," Kurien said. "The absence of Tendulkar is around 40 days at present and that of Rekha is less than that. In both cases, there has been no violation of the provisions."
Pity, an average Indian employee does not have bosses like that.
While many would point out that Tendulkar has not taken any privilege enjoyed by parliamentarians – he refused an official bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi, as was widely reported in the media when he was nominated a couple of years ago – the bigger question is why he agreed to be nominated to parliament if his calendar was chock-full. No one forced him to become an MP. It is an honour, he had said then.
What is it now?
So why get the celebrities into parliament, knowing they will have little time to spare. One can, of course, keep the likes of Hema Malini out of the equation. For, though the actor has a poor 14 percent attendance record and was busier travelling abroad as part of a 15-show North American tour than attending budget-related debates, she is an elected member. For good or bad, people chose her. And for good or bad, they would retain or dump her.
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