It’s a flop show from film stars nominated to Parliament — that’s the impression one gets from the data compiled by PRS Legislative, a non-profit that monitors legislative developments in Parliament.
PRS figures show that Bollywood actor Rekha has attended only 5% of the House proceedings; and giving her company at the bottom with 10% attendance is TMC-nominated yesteryear star Mithun Chakraborty, also a Rajya Sabha MP.
This is not the first time Rekha’s poor show at Parliament has been highlighted, and once, when Chakraborty’s absence from Parliament was raised, a TMC leader stated that it was enough if the ‘Disco Dancer’ star made a guest appearance.
So are actors bad politicians? Not necessarily. Actors have in the past proved that they can be better leaders than career politicians. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are prime examples of how actors-turned-politicians can lead from the front and make a difference in the lives of millions of people.
While there are bad examples like Rekha and Chakraborty, some actor-turned-politicians are taking their job seriously. According to the PRS data, BJP MP from Chandigarh Kirron Kher has an attendance of 84%, has participated in 23 debates, has moved a private member Bill, has asked 109 questions in about two years, and is ahead of other actor-turned-politicians in Parliament. She is followed by BJP’s Ahmedabad East MP Paresh Rawal and Northeast Delhi’s Manoj Tewari, and Trinamool Congress’ Birbhum MP Satabdi Roy, all at 76%.
The average attendance for Lok Sabha has been 82% and for Rajya Sabha is 79%.
From this date it can be inferred that while most of the actors who have fought an election and entered the Lok Sabha take their job seriously, the same cannot be said about their counterparts in the Upper House. One of the reasons for this could be that MPs in the Rajya Sabha are nominated, and are not answerable to the people. As long as they have the blessings of the party that has nominated them, they’re not in any danger. Unfortunately, lack of attendance is not a concern for many parties.
So, should political parties nominate actors to Parliament? Actors might be an integral part of electioneering and are good crowd-pullers, but should they be “rewarded” by nominating them to the Rajya Sabha?
According to the Article 101 (4) of the Constitution, an MP’s seat can be declared vacant if an MP is absent for 60 days “without permission of the House...from all meetings’”. It is time a more stringent approach is adopted by political parties when it comes to “guest actor MPs”.
In principle actors/artistes are nominated to lend their expertise to the legislative process. But how can they contribute if they do not care to even attend Parliament sessions!
Stories of silver screen divas and matinee idols throwing tantrums on movie sets and coming late for shooting schedules are cinema folklore, but no-shows in Parliament cannot — should not — be tolerated. Their absence is a reflection of the disregard they have for the office they hold and disrespect towards Parliament. Why should the people suffer this indifference?
Political parties must stop this process of rewarding actors with sinecures in Parliament and put an end to guest appearances from actor-parliamentarians.
The author tweets as @vijucherian.
The views expressed are personal.