Sachin Tendulkar has become the first Indian sportsman to join the Indian parliament while still playing professional cricket. However his nomination to Rajya Sabha is not without controversy.
Sachin Tendulkar, the 39-year-old legendary Indian cricketer, took his oath as member of Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, in New Delhi on Monday. Tendulkar was nominated as a member of parliament (MP) in the distinguished persons’ category.
Of the 250 members in the Rajya Sabha, 12 are nominated by the Indian president for their extraordinary services in the fields of literature, science, art, sports and social service. Tendulkar is now the fourth international cricketer in the Indian parliament. However, the other three cricketers - Mohammed Azharuddin, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Kirti Azad - are members of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament.
"Cricket has given me a lot during the last 22 years of my international career, now I want to give something back to cricket," Tendulkar said after the oath-taking ceremony.
Tendulkar, however, refused to comment on whether he was retiring from cricket.
In India, Tendulkar's nomination as an MP has received mixed reactions from various quarters. Not everybody welcomed the move when it was announced in April. Many Indians think the highest run-maker in the history of cricket should not have accepted membership of parliament because he is still playing international cricket and may not be able to devote enough time to parliament. Many are doubtful whether the Rajya Sabha membership would really enhance his stature.
“At the moment, he is still an active cricketer who has made it clear that he has no immediate plans of retiring from the sport," said journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. He doubts that Tendulkar will be able to contribute to crucial parliament debates.
But Derek O’Brien, a former quizmaster-turned-politician disagrees.
“We want good people to join parliament and Tendulkar is one of those who can do a lot for sports in India," O'Brien told DW, quoting the example of Sebastin Coe, the British athlete, who is now the chairman of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic games.
Some people are of the view that the demigod status that Tendulkar has acquired over the years could be at risk. Others say Tendulkar enjoys huge public support and it is unlikely that he would behave like corrupt Indian politicians.
“Sachin's nomination is a recognition of his talent,” Communist leader Gurudas Dasgupta told DW.
For his part, former field hockey player Aslam Sher Khan said there was no need to create controversy over Sachin's nomination.
Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Grahame Lucas