They call him the "God of cricket'. He has scored the most number of runs as well as centuries in Tests and one day internationals. Whenever Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar goes out to bat, the excitement among millions of Indians builds up to a crescendo. People throng the stadium to watch him play and give him a standing ovation. Aficionados of the game in an inimical country like Pakistan reportedly adore him.
In the last few years and especially after the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team lifted the World Cup in April 2011, there has been a clamour for Sachin to be given the Bharat Ratna. Days after the cricketer notched up an astounding 100th international ton, the Maharashtra Government recommended his name for the nation's highest civilian honour. So when Sachin was nominated to the Rajya Sabha along with noted actress Rekha and industrialist Anu Aga in the last week of April 2012, the ruling dispensation must have expected a chorus of approval. Instead, they received widespread flak.
Many of his fans did not hide their disappointment over their idol's "unfortunate decision to accept the nomination" and everyone from the armchair experts who hog the animated discussions on prime time news to the netizens along with leading personalities from several fields proffered their opinions, mostly unsolicited, on the topic. Some saw nothing wrong in Sachin being nominated to the RS considering his remarkable achievements but others criticised him for "planning to join the ruling party" and alleged that "Tendulkar is forsaking the game because he wants to enter the murky domain of politics".
Though his meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at her residence just before the news broke appeared to lend credence to the former theory, incidentally the opposition including the BJP did not see anything amiss in the move. Meanwhile, Yoga guru Baba Ramdev weighed in with the strange logic that since Sachin is going to be a member of the Upper House, now he is fair game for all the attacks directed against parliamentarians.
The debate also centred on whether Sachin should have been nominated to the RS in the first place. Those who do not concur with the government's decision pointed out Article 80 (3) of the Constitution which makes it clear that the members to be nominated by the President under sub clause (a) of clause (1) shall consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following, namely: literature, science, art and social service.
According to the 'dissenters', sportspersons cannot be nominated to the RS as they do not fall in any of the aforementioned four categories. Armed with this argument, a 79-year-old former MLA and journalist named Ram Gopal Singh Sisodia approached the Supreme Court. His counsel told the SC's vacation bench that the decision to nominate Sachin to the Rajya Sabha was in contravention of the Constitutional provisions, besides being violative of Article 14 (right to equality). The apex court declined to hear the petition and told Sisodia to file it before the Delhi High Court. On May 16, the HC refused his plea to restrain Sachin from taking the oath as a MP. However, the judges issued a notice to the Centre and asked it to respond by July 5.
Earlier A Benitto, an advocate, moved the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, citing a complaint that was filed before the Judicial Magistrate of Melur in Madurai district against Sachin for allegedly causing disrepute to the tricolour by cutting a cake having the picture of the national flag during a party in Jamaica on March 10, 2010. Benitto said the HC should seek to find out how Sachin's nomination had been accepted by the Upper House Secretariat without conducting a proper investigation.
The courts are yet to decide which side is right. Nevertheless, the entire fuss over an apparent non-issue is surprising in a nation such as ours that is beset with countless problems. All the people who have got hot under their collar need to focus their time and energy on discussing matters of far greater national importance.