New Delhi. Over two decades and more, Sachin Tendulkar has got used to carrying the burden of a billion hopes each time he has walked out to bat. Now he faces an altogether different challenge: proving himself as a capable lawmaker.
President Pratibha Patil has approved his nomination to the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of Parliament, meaning Tendulkar will become the first sportsman to take a nominated seat there when he takes his oath in the coming days.
It will also be a rare case of an active sportsman going to Parliament. Though the Indian cricket fraternity welcomed his nomination in general, some feared that he may not be able to do much and could end up as a tool for politicians.
Noted cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle suggested the nomination was a cynical ploy to gain “political mileage” out of Tendulkar, who has rarely, if ever, spoken out on political issues or professed any party affiliation.
“I don’t think it is the greatest idea,” Bhogle said. “He does not have the experience of governing or doing social work.”
Tendulkar has not yet indicated whether he will accept the honor.
But news of the nomination broke just hours after he and his wife called on ruling Congress party president Sonia Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi. There was also speculation that he might be asked to join the party in a bid to boost its image.
“My only fear is that the stamp of a political party should not come on him,” said Chetan Chauhan, a former India opener who forged a career as an MP.
“The minute he associates himself with a party, the public’s perception about him will change,” Chauhan was quoted as saying by the Mid Day daily.
Tendulkar, who holds many major batting world records and recently became the first person to score 100 international centuries, has not retired from any form of the game.
The 39-year-old is a regular in tests though he has limited his participation in one-day internationals. He does not play Twenty20 cricket for India but turns out for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
The Rajya Sabha has 250 members who serve six-year terms, most of whom are elected. Tendulkar is among 12 nominated persons chosen for their expertise in specific fields. Those from the fields of art, literature, science and social service have been nominated in the past.
As a Rajya Sabha member, Tendulkar will be expected to attend its various sessions through the year and vote on important items of legislation.
An editorial in the Times of India labeled Tendulkar’s nomination a populist move that made “little sense.”
Pointing out that Tendulkar’s cricketing duties kept him on the road for 216 days last season, the newspaper said nominating an active sportsman “defeats the purpose” of choosing eminent people who can enrich parliamentary debate.
“His new role will force Sachin to choose between his duty to the team and his job as a parliamentarian. It’s an unfair choice,” it said.
Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar was not impressed with Tendulkar’s new foray, which will see him join former India cricketers Mohammad Azharuddin, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Kirti Azad as members of Parliament.
“Frankly, I am at a loss for words because I never realized these sort of things interested him,” he said.