NEW DELHI — For hundreds of millions of cricket-crazy Indians, 39-year-old Sachin Tendulkar is a god. And on Thursday, this god was nominated as a member of parliament.
“God Has a New House”, declared India’s leading daily, The Times of India on Friday about the entry of the reigning superstar of world cricket into the Rajya Sabha, or the House of Elders, one of two Houses in the Indian parliament.
As fans celebrated the elevation of the soft spoken, curly haired “master blaster”, TV shows, twitterati and analysts asked one sobering question: Will this god clean up India’s politics? Or will the corrupt cesspool of Indian politics muddy the unblemished hero?
Ten teams, from 10 countries and regions, including Australia, India, South Africa and the West Indies, play international cricket, a game that is followed by more than a billion people worldwide. Since his first international game in 1989, Mumbai-based Tendulkar has broken every batting record and set some that now appear unreachable anytime soon.
But what surprised his fans is that Tendulkar has not shown any political inclination until now. He has stayed squeaky clean in a game marred by controversies of rowdy behavior on the pitch, match-fixing bribe scandals and wild partying. He is apolitical, low profile, measures every comment and rarely speaks about anything beyond the game.
Indians who are used to seeing unruly scenes in parliament in recent years — shouting matches, wads of bribe money being displayed, copies of bills torn up and lawmakers jostled — asked if Tendulkar would be allowed to speak freely in the House. And if he does speak, whose issues will he raise? Will the man who owns a red Ferrari speak for the poor?
Best selling novelist Chetan Bhagat tweeted his congratulations: “My only suggestion. Consider taking your bat to parliament. You never know when you might need it.”
Tendulkar is the first active sportsperson to enter the Rajya Sabha, which also has nominated distinguished artists, poets and Bollywood actors. The Rajya Sabha can have up to 250 members, 12 of whom are nominated by the president of India. The nominated members “are persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service,” according to the Indian constitution.
Some politicians hoped Tendulkar’s political debut will stir the apathetic Indian youth to pay closer attention to parliament and politics.
Derek O Brien, a lawmaker, said on television that his daughter wants to watch parliamentary proceedings now.
Others were not so upbeat. Social commentator Suhel Seth said that the House of Elders should not become a Madame Tussauds Wax Museum for celebrity sightings.
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