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Rajya Sabha Nomination: NOT MEDAL OR DECORATION, by Dr.S.Saraswathi, 30 May, 2012 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 30 May 2012

Rajya Sabha Nomination


By Dr.S.Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)


Recent  nominations of film actor Rekha and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar  to the Rajya Sabha have created  unusually  unpleasant but necessary debate over the House of Elders role in general, and expectations from nominated members in particular.  Given that the House is not a resort for privileged classes or a house of dolls. 


Importantly, its role in legislating and deliberating bills is as important as the Lok Sabha. Hence, there is no question of treating the Rajya Sabha as an anomaly in a popularly elected democratic Government.  The House has a role which calls for increasing participation in legislative deliberations so that every issue gets the benefit of diverse perspectives.


In fact, nomination of a few members to the Rajya Sabha is to facilitate the entry of distinguished personalities to Parliament whereby their viewpoints in their respective fields of specialisation is available to the nation. As eminent persons would normally be dis-inclined to enter the rough-tumble road of politics. 


The Rajya Sabha consists of 250 members, of which 238 are from States and Union Territories and 12 persons are nominated by the President. According to the Constitution, “nominated members shall consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as Literature, Science, Art, and Social service.”  As the President has to act on the advice of his Council of Ministers, nominations are practically made by the Government.


Critics of the nomination clause point out that sports per se is not included in the areas of special knowledge to justify inclusion of star  cricketer Tendulkar, notwithstanding political unanimity.  They recall, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who observed that nominated members do not represent political parties, but symbolise the high watermark of literature, art, culture “or whatever else.” Thereby, suggesting that there is no rigidity vis-à-vis the fields of special knowledge of nominated members. 


Indeed, in today’s world where knowledge is expanding fast in diverse directions one can not be restricted to a few traditionally known areas. Given that our democratic system of Government is still evolving and expanding methods of popular participation. 


Undoubtedly, there is merit in including experts from non-political fields in law- making and Parliamentary procedure who would neither have the time nor inclination to take part in governance.  True, nominated members might lack a representative character in political terms, but they do represent the best in real life and can impart their knowledge and expertise in deliberations, provided they do not become victims to power politics.

Pertinently, the controversy today centres on doubts over these MPs continuing commitments to their fields of activity and the time they can spare for Parliamentary business.  When Sachem Tendulkar affirms that his first passion is cricket, a legitimate question arises: Will he be available to shoulder the additional responsibility as a Rajya Sabha MP given his tight schedule?


Especially as a Rajya Sabha nomination is primarily meant to channelise available special knowledge to law-making and consideration of national issues. It is not a reward for any outstanding achievement or in the nature of nation’s acknowledgement of gratitude for winning laurels for the country.  The Rajya Sabha membership is a political post, whether the Member is elected or nominated, and carries with it serious political duties.


Besides, rules permit nominated members to join any political Party within six months.  This indirectly confirms that nominated members are not expected to remain non-partisan.  Thus, this proviso introduces an element of Party politics in Governmental selection of picking people to adorn the Rajya Sabha benches.


Indeed, if nominations are made with the intention of roping in celebrities to particular political Parties to project them in elections to attract it tantamounts to nothing but petty politics.  


Not many are aware that the Rajya Sabha (Second Chamber) was constituted in India under the Government of India Act in 1919 known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, and continued under the Government of India Act, 1935.  This was in step with other Parliamentary democracies which have bicameral legislatures                                                                                                                                  


The Second Chamber provides for wider deliberation of issues which go beyond Party considerations.  It can put a break on hasty legislations, discuss and revise legislations passed by the Lok Sabha, and more importantly project the perspectives of States on particular matters. It not only had a distinct character but also was called the Council of States and enjoyed equal powers with the elected Legislative Assembly.


Several eminent personalities in various fields have served in the Rajya Sabha like, Constitutional expert Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, economist D.R.Gadgil, scientist Raja Ramanna et al. Our present Rajya Sabha too has some outstanding experts from various fields capable of providing valuable inputs to Parliamentary work.


Additionally, the Rajya Sabha can ensure Executive accountability through its various committees.  Whereby, these Committees consider important legislations, the latest being the Lok Pal Bill.  Rajya Sabha MPs also have several instruments similar to those given to Lok Sabha Members like questions, calling attention motions, special mention, short duration discussion, half hour discussion, resolutions, issues of public importance, introducing bills except money bills etc.




Importantly, these instruments are crucial as through these Rajya Sabha Members can elicit information and bring pressure on the Government to frame and revise policies.  Clearly, the efficacy of the Rajya Sabha rests on the quality of its Members ---- their knowledge and interest in public affairs. 


Alas, however, the Rajya Sabha also works on Party lines.  Sometimes, Party considerations and “coalition dharma” push the interests of one’s State to second place. No wonder, nominations are caught in the political web and drag achievers into vicious political controversies before they can even step into the field of politics! ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)




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