Sachin Tendulkar's nomination to the Rajya Sabha has some politicians and sports-persons wondering if this is the correct move for a man hero-worshipped across the country for his incredible cricket. Sachin has been nominated as an MP by the government along with actor Rekha and industrialist-activist Anu Aga; their nominations were cleared by President Pratibha Patil last evening.
"Sachin's nomination is a real recognization of sports talent," said the Left's Gurudas Dasgupta. But he added, "Sourav Ganguly could also have been considered when he was in his top form." Mr Dasgupta also said that the government must consider recognizing achievers from other sports as well. "It should not be highlighted that they are patronizing cricket (alone)," he advised. The Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut accused the Congress of trying to leverage the cricketer's huge popularity and icon status for its own benefit. "They want to improve their image...they should not play politics with Sachin," he said. The Congress denies the allegations. The party's Rajiv Shukla, who accompanied Sachin and his wife Anjali to a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi yesterday, said,Â "We are trying to bring good people in parliament...it is a kind of honour for him." Â
Sachin plays an IPL match tonight - the Mumbai Indians take on Delhi Daredevils in Delhi. "My first ipl game against a rajya sabha member ;) Hope the weather holds n we get a full game today," tweeted Virender Sehwag.
Given Sachin's busy cricket schedule - he spent more than 235 days last year playing or travelling for 33 matches (From January 1 2011 to March 31 2012) - many have questioned whether he will have the time or inclination to be an active MP. Cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar was asked by NDTV about whether other members of the House might find it tough to take on Sachin in a parliamentary debate, given the huge goodwill he enjoys among politicians as well as cricket fans. "The only person who can win an argument against Sachin is (his wife) Anjali," Mr Gavaskar responded.
Sachin's nomination to the Rajya Sabha comes at a time when many have asked why he has not been given the nation's highest civilian honour - the Bharat Ratna. In March, Sachin became the only cricketer to get a hundred centuries in international cricket. Politicians who are not from the Congress, as well as analysts, have said that by accepting the government's nomination, Sachin will be seen as aligned with the Congress. This, they argue, could dent his standing as a man who has been careful to avoid any public affiliation with a political party. "It is Sachin's and the Congress' personal matter. But I feel more than a seat, he should be given a Bharat Ratna," said BJP leader Gopinath Munde.
In 2009, Sachin took on two political parties -the Shiv Sena, which is headed by Bal Thackeray, and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, launched by Mr Thackeray's estranged nephew, Raj. Both parties were pushing a strong anti-immigrant campaign in an attempt to woo voters in Maharashtra. "Mumbai belongs to India. That is how I look at it. And I am a Maharashtrian and I am extremely proud of that but I am an Indian first," Sachin had said.