Are Heroes Zeroes as MPs?

May 3, 2009
There is a stone there,
That whoever kisses,
Oh! He never misses
To grow eloquent.
“Tis he may clamber
 To a lady’s chamber
Or become a member
Of  Parliament.

- Francis Mahony (Father Prout), Irish writer and wit (1804-1866).
Even ignoring the not so concealed equation between lady’s chamber and the house of Parliament, there is a differentiating factor between them – one is associated with pillow-talk while the other is talking shop Even the Mother of Parliament – Britain’s House of Commons -  has been called that. But, Indian heroes, elected or nominated, become zeroes when it comes to speaking or asking question in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that every hero become a bore at last. Mercifully, with their traps tightly shut, our heroes in Parliament had no chance to bores. But, first the supporting facts.
The Citizens’ Report on Government and Development 2008-09 by National Social Watch Coalition, recently released, highlights the lack of interest of Parliamentary proceedings of celebrity members. None of them turned up for more than 20 per cent of its 34 sittings in the latest session. Citing specifics, the report says that cricketer-turned-politician Navjoth Singh Siddhu, film stars Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Jaya Bachachan, Dharmendra, Govinda and Jaya Prada, wrestler Dara Singh, industrialists Vijay Mallya and Rahul Bajaj, film director Sham Benegal and economist Bimal Jalan – all have done exceptionally poorly in Parliament.

The performance of members of Parliament is assessed on the basis of their participation in House debates and in asking questions, often concerning their constituencies. Interestingly, of the 80,000+ questions asked in both House, their contribution did not even add up to one per cent. 55,145 questions were asked in the Lok Sabha and 22,794 in the Rajya Sabha during 64 day spread over to sessions. Govinda did not attend the Lok Sabha at all during this period while Dharmendra did not ask a single question or participate in any debate – his attendance was a dismal 1.5 per cent. His wife, actor-dancer Hema Malini, a nominated Rajya Sabha member from BJP, fared better with 10 per cent attendance.
Former RBI Governor, Bimal Jalan, a nominated member of Rajya Sabha, asked just one question and recorded 20 per cent attendance - the highest for the celebrity class. He redeemed his record by participating in 10 debates. Sham Benegal, another nominated member of Rajya Sabha, had no questions to ask and spoke only twice. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya asked 126 questions in the Rajya Sabha, but  recorded only a poor 7 per cent attendance. Actor-wrestler-turned-politician, Dara Singh, had zero participation and 14 per cent attendance. The otherwise voluble Sidhu was  silent during Lok Sabha debates and recorded 6 per cent attendance. BJP Lok Sabha MP from Punjab, veteran actor Vinod Khanna, asked just four questions, spoke only twice and recorded attendance of 5.5 per cent.
Samajwadi Party’s MP, Jaya Prada, and the party’s Rajya Sabha member, Jaya Bachchan, both actors, faired best among the lot of celebrity heroes by asking 178 and 159 questions, respectively – with Jaya Prada being more active in debates.
Against this background citizens should be happy that Govinda was denied ticket for the current election by the Congress and the Supreme Court barred Sanjay Dutt from contesting elections.
Bimal Jalan is conscious of his poor record but blames the system. He has elaborated on the subject in a book, India’s Politics: A View from the Back Bench, Penguin 2008. Says Jalan: “Attendance is certainly important. At the same time, it has to be recognized that except for some perfunctory discussion of important issues and approval of government bills, normally nothing much happens during sittings. I have been witness to approval of several important bills by Parliament during noisy disruptions without voting or even minimum discussion. On some occasions, as many as four or five legislative bills were adopted with voice votes within a period of 10 minutes at the end of the day in the midst of disruption”

If the celebrity heroes cannot do justice to their membership of Parliament, why do they hanker after it? Mercifully they did not cash in on their question-asking privilege as some MPs did and were thrown out. Such cash is a small change for celebrity heroes who see a fresh window of opportunity to extend their brand value – when they tend to be bores in the tinsel world. Collateral benefit and freebies like diplomatic passports, which one Gujarat MP used for human trafficking, are another attractions.
 Heroes leave their core competency and become bores or zeroes because of their volatile nature. After their decline in tinsel town, for instance, they look for avenues to retain their relevance. These needs have been identified by astute observers of the hero scene as reflected in the following:
“The idol of today pushes the hero of yesterday out of our recollection; and will, in turn, be supplanted by his successor of tomorrow.” – Washington Irving, US humorist.
“There is never any real danger in allotting a pedestal for a hero. One sees him always and over and over again kicking his pedestal out from under him, and using it to batter a world with.” – Gerald Stanley Lee, US writer.
Parliament is being battered now by heroes who should be in wax museums – as some have managed to be!
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website, (Interactive Cerebral Challenger). 

By John B. Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • Arun, Surathkal/udupi

    Fri, May 08 2009

    We have great politicians (in news) in the twin districts like Oscar, J Poojari, Veerappa Moily and S Gowda. Can anyone show the major acheivment done by these MPs for the District. Persons like S Mallya has done wonderful work for the development of DK with the VISION. Present people come only during elections to make Poly Tricks!

  • K.Raghava Mayya, Padil, M''lore

    Mon, May 04 2009

    J.Pujary was MP for the last several decades {as Raj Sabha MP}. There were other MPs also. All were totally zeroes. Did not do any effort, atleast regarding Rly.amenities {like overbridge in Padil etc.}

  • Edwin, Karnataka

    Mon, May 04 2009

    Whether an MP does anything to his/her constituency or not, it makes a big difference if they take the pain to take regular rounds and survey their area. They may be not able to anything at all, but I am sure, they, if not treated well, will enjoy a cup of tea or a tender coconut from every house they visit.

    By not speaking at all in both houses, discussing issues closely with the people when they visit, recording and paying back the same in the Rajya-Saba or Lok-Saba, will do miracles!!!


    Sun, May 03 2009

    Yes, most of our political parties give MP Tickets/ Heroes as a part of their party glamour knowing very well the magnetic attraction and acceptance they receive from our majority voters/Society, who reward them the parliament seat for their reel life heroic performance without much expectation from their real life Heores as MPs resulting in adding additional zeroes to our already drained exchequer.

  • Divakar, Managlore/Cupertino

    Sun, May 03 2009

    That reminds me of Udupi MP Late Shri U. Srinivas Mallya. He was an MP for 18 years, yet supposedly never spoke a single word in the Parliament. He let his actions speak, which is there for everyone to see in undivided D.K. I wish these celebrities at least do something constructive for their constituency.

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