I know I’m about to suggest irresponsible MPs are like errant school children but then, quite frankly, the requirement to attend Parliament is not dissimilar to the need to be present in class. In both cases it’s a moral responsibility.
PRS Legislative Research has analysed the attendance of MPs in the just-ended budget session and found at least 33 who were present for less than 50% of the sittings. In fact, a few were there for less than 10%! The 33 include MPs as supposedly responsible as the Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, the UP chief minister’s wife and the Rajasthan chief minister’s son.
However, I’m going to focus on Sachin Tendulkar. In the two years and four months he’s been an MP he’s only attended Parliament on three occasions. Actually, a more appropriate word would be visited because he simply appeared, was noticed and left. He made no meaningful contribution. But attended is kinder.
The last sighting of Sachin-in-Parliament was on the 13th of December 2013. That’s eight months ago. On Monday he sought and obtained permission to miss the whole budget session. In fact, by then he’d already been absent for over 90%. This means the next sighting of Sachin-in-Parliament won’t be before the winter session starts in November. By then he will have been an absent MP for 11 months!
Sachin’s excuse — and you’ll soon see why it isn’t an explanation — is that his brother, Ajit, has had heart surgery and he needed to be close-by. That would be perfectly understandable but for the fact The Times of India (9/8) says Sachin found time to visit England, watch cricket and holiday with his family. This was during the early weeks of the budget session.
What’s worse is this excuse was made public during a visit to Delhi on Friday the 8th for a Commonwealth Games felicitation function. If he wanted to Sachin could have also visited Parliament. But he didn’t. He came to Delhi but not to the Rajya Sabha!
Now I admit Sachin’s behaviour is not unique. Rekha is another nominated MP who’s gone AWOL. Hema Malini and Tapas Pal are elected MPs who’ve also missed the entire budget session. Like the rest of them, Parliament is not a priority for Sachin. Being an MP is an adornment, not a duty or an obligation.
However, Sachin is different for two reasons and that’s why I’m picking on him. And, yes, I admit I’m picking on him. First, he’s an icon. Even Rekha cannot compare. And because he’s so loved he’s expected to set an example.
Well, Sachin failed and, undoubtedly, deliberately. For all his rhetoric of serving the nation — and he can be full of it — being present in Parliament, even in silence and even only occasionally, was a responsibility he was unwilling to fulfil. In fact, he consciously chose not to. And the only reason could be that it wasn’t worth the effort.
Second, Sachin is the first sportsman to be nominated an MP. Actually, the ‘rules’ were altered to permit this. There was, therefore, an additional responsibility to justify the change. Alas, he didn’t care. And the result? He’s proved his critics right.
My conclusion is simple though brutal. Sachin has behaved badly. He’s not only let us down, he’s let himself down. And if, today, he’s embarrassed by questions about his priorities, ethics and values he has only himself to blame.
Sachin has diminished himself.
The views expressed by the author are personal