Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar has been nominated to join India's parliament
The selection has drawn mixed reactions, with the Times of India saying it "makes little sense"
At the same time, many lawmakers welcomed the celebrated batsman
Tendulkar, the first cricketer to score 100 international centuries, insists sport is priority
From the boisterous crowds of stadia to a noisy assembly of mostly politicians, India’s cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar faces a new test.
On the website of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, the 39-year-old is now listed as one of its nominated members.
“When you get nominated because of your contribution in your field, it’s an honor,” Tendulkar said at an event in Pune, western India on Tuesday.
The sporting icon’s surprise selection to the house of elders has drawn a mixed reaction in India, where cricket and politics are often seen as the opium of the masses.
“Nominating Sachin Tendulkar to the Rajya Sabha may be a populist move, but it makes little sense,” wrote the Times of India newspaper in a comment last week.
The editorial was posted under a page-one headline “God has a new House” that announced the naming of the revered cricketer to the national assembly.
“A nomination to the Rajya Sabha, however, should not be treated as a means of honoring eminent people but as a way to enrich parliamentary debate by having people with expertise in different fields. Nominating an active sportsperson defeats that purpose,” the paper wrote Friday.
Some of India’s sports personalities were also skeptical whether an active player would be able to do justice to legislative proceedings.
“I don’t know whether he (Tendulkar) has time to do that because I think he is playing international cricket; he is playing in all formats of the game,” former cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar told reporters. “Whether he will have time to do that? Whether he will have time to attend parliament? I really cannot say anything on this.”
At the same time, many lawmakers welcomed the celebrated batsman – who has scored more runs in international cricket than any other player in the history of the game – to their ranks.
“I am happy for Sachin. Last time, when I spoke to the media on his birthday, I had said that I hope that government nominates him for the Rajya Sabha. There is no-one better than Sachin. I am happy,” said Najma Heptullah, a leader from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
In March, Tendulkar became the first cricketer to score 100 international centuries.
And last week, he and his wife visited the residence of Sonia Gandhi, the Italy-born head of India’s ruling Congress party whose popularity has plummeted because of a raft of corruption scandals in the government.
Critics of Congress, which denies any wrongdoing, issued words of caution to the cricket star.
“Sachin will perhaps have to guard against being used by political interests. He belongs to all. He is a silent lone worker, not an activist,” tweeted Kiran Bedi, a former police officer who is now part of an anti-corruption campaign against the federal government.
Tendulkar’s selection to parliament comes under a constitutional provision that empowers the Indian president to name 12 people to the 250-member Rajya Sabha.
The nomination, according to the constitution, is extended to people with “special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service.”
“Unless Sachin becomes a national voice for clean, organized sports, he would be a disappointment,” Bedi wrote on her Twitter website page.
Confronted with subtle hints of political loyalty, Tendulkar has attempted to steer clear of controversies over his new role.
Cricket, he insists, will remain his priority.
“I have been nominated because I am a sportsman and not a politician. I am a sportsman and will always remain one. I am not going to enter politics giving up cricket, which is my life. I will continue to play cricket,” he said Tuesday.