Updated: March 20, 2020 12:17:59 pm
While pitching in favour of making a provision in the Constitution for nomination of eminent people to the Council of States, N Gopalaswami Ayyangar, who was part of the Constitution drafting committee, had stated: “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; historians Kalidas Nag and Radha Kumud Mookerji; 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.
This was reason enough for Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to state in the 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.”
Article 80 of the Constitution states, “(1) The council of States shall consist of (a) twelve members to be nominated by the President in accordance with the provisions of clause (3)…” Clause (3) states, “The members to be nominated by the President under sub clause (a) of clause (1) shall consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following, namely: Literature, science, art and social service”.
Since Rajya Sabha was constituted in 1952, 137 people have been nominated as its members. These include scholars, jurists, educationists, historians, scientists, litterateurs, journalists, engineers, economists, administrators, artistes, social workers and politicians usually with loyalty to the government of the day.
The nominated category route has come handy for the ruling dispensation to, over the years, get its favourites into the Upper House. For instance, Maragatham Chandrasekar, Congress general secretary and former minister, had the maximum three shots – from 1970 to 1988 – as a “social worker.” Former Assam chief minister Anwara Taimur (1988), Indira Gandhi’s close associate Nirmala Deshpande (1997 and 2003), former minister Mani Shankar Aiyyar (2010), Madan Bhatia (1982 and 1988), Sat Paul Mittal (1976 and 1982) were among nominated members with allegiance to the Congress.
The BJP brought in former Union minister Subramanian Swamy (2016), journalist and party functionary Chandan Mitra, actor Hema Malini (2003), Navjot Singh Sidhu (2016; he later joined the Congress), and former Lok Sabha member from Robertsganj Ram Shakal (2018) to Rajya Sabha.
Presidential nominees in the present Rajya Sabha are Swapan Dasgupta, Subramanian Swamy, Narendra Jadhav, Suresh Gopi, Mary Kom, Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje, Roopa Ganguly (all nominated in 2016), Rakesh Sinha, Sonal Mansingh, and Raghunath Mohapatra (all 2018).
Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi is the latest in that list.
Dasgupta has long been associated with the BJP, while Swamy is a one-man army crusading against the Nehru-Gandhi family in various courts. Narendra Jadhv, who comes from a Dalit community, is seen as having been picked by the party as part of its social engineering initiative. The BJP is seen as having picked popular Kerala actor Suresh Gopi with the hope that it would strengthen the party in Kerala, and Mary Kom was selected ostensibly to strengthen its base in the Northeast.
The BJP, it is said, hopes that the presence of Sambhajiraje, a descendant of Shivaji, in the party would enhance its appeal among Marathas in Maharashtra. Roopa Ganguly, who acted in the tele-serial ‘Mahabharat’, it is hoped, would give Bengalis a sense of representation in the party. Sinha, a teacher, is seen as having been rewarded for effectively articulating the party’s views on TV, while Mansingh is useful for the saffron brigade in its battles with intellectuals and performing artistes loyal to the other side.
Mohapatra is a sculptor whose nomination is seen as an attempt to woo the people of Odisha, which the BJP hopes to win in the coming years.
Nominated members enjoy all powers and privileges which elected MPs are entitled to. They take part in proceedings of the House but are not allowed to vote in the election of the President. They have a voting right in the election of the Vice President. So far no nominated member has been inducted into the Council of Ministers.
A nominated member can join a party within six months of taking his seat in the House. Swamy, for example, has taken the BJP whip, but Dasgupta has chosen not to do so.
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