Updated: July 7, 2022 1:41:13 pm
The government on Wednesday (July 6) nominated musician Ilaiyaraaja, track-and-field icon PT Usha, Telugu screenwriter V Vijayendra Prasad, and philanthropist and spiritual leader Veerendra Heggade to Rajya Sabha. The four new entrants to Rajya Sabha belong to four southern states, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka.
Ilaiyaraaja, Usha, Prasad, and Heggade will serve until July 2028. The Upper House of Parliament now has nine nominated members — the other five being lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani, dancer Sonal Mansingh, politician Ram Shakal, author and columnist Rakesh Sinha, and former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. Three nominated positions are currently vacant.
What does the Constitution say about nominated members?
Article 80 of the Constitution (“Composition of the Council of States”) says “The Council of States shall consist of (a) twelve members to be nominated by the President in accordance with the provisions of clause (3); and (b) not more than two hundred and thirty-eight representatives of the States and of the Union territories.”
Clause 3 of the article layer down the qualifications for the appointment: “The members to be nominated by the President…shall consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following, namely:—
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Literature, science, art and social service.”
Since Rajya Sabha was constituted in 1952, a total 142 individuals have been nominated as its members. The list includes scholars, jurists, educationists, historians, scientists, litterateurs, journalists, engineers, economists, administrators, artistes, sportspersons, social workers, and politicians, mostly with loyalty to the government of the day.
What is the role of nominated members?
Nominated members of Rajya Sabha enjoy all the powers and privileges to which the elected MPs are entitled. They can take part in the proceedings of the House in the normal manner, even though there has been criticism that several nominated members have poor attendance and do not appear to show much interest in legislative work. In this context, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, actor Rekha, and businesswoman Anu Aga have faced criticism in recent years.
Nominated members are not allowed to vote in the election of the President. They do have the right to vote in the election of the Vice-President, however.
Why are members nominated to the Rajya Sabha?
Pitching for a provision in the Constitution to allow eminent persons to be nominated to the Council of States, N Gopalaswami Ayyangar, who was part of the Constitution Drafting Committee, said: “We also give an opportunity, perhaps, to seasoned people who may not be in the thickest of the political fray, but who might be willing to participate in the debate with an amount of learning and importance which we do not ordinarily associate with the House of the People (Lok Sabha).”
The first list of 12 Presidential nominees perfectly represented this sentiment: Zakir Husain, who later became the President of India; historians Kalidas Nag and Radha Kumud Mookerji; the eminent Hindi poet Maithilisharan Gupt; Gandhian author Kakasaheb Kalelkar; scientist Satyendranath Bose; social worker N R Malkani; danseuse Rukmini Devi Arundale; Gandhian scholar J M Kumarappa; jurist Alladi Krishnaswami; actor Prithviraj Kapoor; and medical scientist Major General S S Sokhey.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru told Lok Sabha on May 13, 1953: “The President has nominated some members of the Council of States who, if I may say so, are among the most distinguished…in arts, science, etc…. They do not represent political parties or anything, but they represent really the high watermark of literature or art or culture or whatever it may be.”
Politicisation of the nominated category
Over time, the high ideal of the nomination came to be eroded. Ruling dispensations have repeatedly used the nominated category to shore up their numbers in the House, to dispense favours, and to get their preferred individuals into Parliament.
While a nominated member can join a political party within six months of taking his/ her seat in the House, even those who remain technically independent are assumed to be aligned with the ruling regime.
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Maragatham Chandrasekar, Congress general secretary and former minister, served three terms as nominated member of Rajya Sabha from 1970 to 1988 as a “social worker”. Former Assam Chief Minister Anwara Taimur (who was nominated in 1988), Indira Gandhi’s close associate Nirmala Deshpande (nominated in 1997 and 2003), former minister Mani Shankar Aiyyar (nominated in 2010), Madan Bhatia (nominated in 1982 and 1988), Sat Paul Mittal (nominated in 1976 and 1982) all had close allegiance to the Congress.
The BJP nominated former Union minister Subramanian Swamy in 2016, a one-man army crusading against the Nehru-Gandhi family in various courts. Its journalist nominees, the late Chandan Mitra and Swapan Dasgupta, were/are closely associated with the party, and contested elections on BJP tickets. Actor Hema Malini, nominated in 2003, is a BJP politician. Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu was aligned with the BJP before joining the Congress. Former Lok Sabha member from Robertsganj Ram Shakal entered Rajya Sabha in 2018.
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