It is unimaginable in any job that a person does not turn up for work for the greater part of her contract. But this is exactly what Mithun Chakraborty, Rajya Sabha MP and yesteryear film star, has done. He has frequently asked for leave from the House and in two years has attended Parliament for about 3% of the time the House has been in session. Similarly, film actor Rekha appears to be a bird of passage after she became a Rajya Sabha member.
In the past, there have been other artistes like Lata Mangeshkar who hardly ever attended Parliament sessions citing work pressures and other reasons.
It is no one’s contention that such luminaries do not add lustre to Parliament, being achievers in their respective fields. But, more than that, those in the Upper House are chosen to bring their wisdom and knowledge to the proceedings. They could choose to raise issues related to their core competence or even issues of broader national interest. There have been many who have done so. But some mechanism has to be put in place to ensure that unless there is a genuine reason, endless leaves cannot be granted to members.
The cavalier manner in which people like Mr Chakraborty have treated their position in the Rajya Sabha devalues the august house. To make matters worse, a leading Trinamool Congress leader has publicly stated that Mr Chakraborty was rewarded with this berth for his services to the party and that the party did not expect much more than an occasional guest appearance from him. This makes a mockery of the efforts of others who diligently attend sessions. Some of the most brilliant debates on serious national issues have been seen in the Rajya Sabha.
Unlike the Lok Sabha, which tends to deal more with the nuts and bolts of governance, the Upper House has often debated issues that have broader implications for the very idea of India. Those who are chosen must be clearly state whether they have the time to spare to actually contribute to the House. If not, it would better to be upfront and make way for a more committed candidate.