BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, former Lok Sabha member Navjot Singh Sidhu and former member of the erstwhile National Advisory Council Narendra Jadhav were Friday nominated by the Narendra Modi government to the Rajya Sabha. The other nominees are Malayalam actor Suresh Gopi, journalist Swapan Dasgupta and boxer Mary Kom.
There were a total of seven vacancies, but the government filled six of them. The seventh nominee, held up at the eleventh hour, will be named soon. Those whose names are doing the rounds include film actor and vocal saffron activist Anupam Kher and TV personality and long-standing party sympathiser Rajat Sharma.
The names of the new nominees were disclosed by a Home Ministry spokesperson, who said a formal notification would be issued shortly. The nominations are designed to bring people associated with literature, science, sports, films, media, art and social service to the Upper House.
President Pranab Mukherjee nominated the six personalities from different fields to the House of Elders following a recommendation of the Narendra Modi government, a Home Ministry spokesperson said.
A look at the six personalities nominated to the Upper House:
Navjot Singh Sidhu, 52
A cricketer-turned-politician, the Jat Sikh was a prize catch for the Hindutva-driven BJP in a communally sensitive Punjab. More so, because he happened to be immensely popular even among Sikh masses, notwithstanding the BJP tag. However, he has been sulking ever since he was denied a renomination from Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency — to facilitate allocation of the party ticket to Arun Jaitley — despite being a two-time MP. His MLA wife, also named Navjot, too had an uneasy equation with the Akali Dal. Sidhu’s name had been in circulation as a possible Aam Aadmi Party choice for chief ministership, which many in the BJP feared could be a game-changer in the next Assembly elections. His nomination to the Upper House forecloses that possibility.
Subramanian Swamy, 76
He was first elected to the Rajya Sabha way back in 1974 on a Jana Sangh ticket. Young, bright, articulate and Harvard-educated, he was then seen as prime minister material within the Sangh Parivar, much to the discomfort of the other in-house aspirant, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His career track might have been drastically different had he been a little more patient and stayed on with the BJP. However, he chose to go along the Janata parivar and ended up leading one faction. He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1977, 1980 and 1988, and to the Rajya Sabha in 1998. He was a minister in the Chandra Shekhar government. A relentless crusader, he forced the Ramakrishna Hegde government in Karnataka to resign on the issue of phone-tapping and later toppled the Vajpayee government by bringing the Congress and J Jayalalithaa together in 1998. He was one of the petitioners in the 2G spectrum case, which led to the decline of the Congress. He is currently pursuing the National Herald case against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Swamy joined the BJP in 2013 with strong backing from the RSS, despite opposition from a section of the party. He is unlikely to be content with a Rajya Sabha seat and may ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a Cabinet berth.
Narendra Jadhav, 63
The economist with a PhD degree in economics from Indiana University, USA, is a former vice-chancellor of Pune University. His nomination comes as a surprise, given his close association with former prime minister Manmohan Singh. He was a member of the Planning Commission (2009-14) and National Advisory Council (NAC) — headed by Sonia Gandhi — between 2010 and 2014, due to his proximity to the Congress leadership. He is learnt to have, of late, managed to get closer to PM Modi as well. A Dalit from Maharashtra, he has written some three dozen books in English, Hindi and Marathi, including a biography of B R Ambedkar.
Swapan Dasgupta, 60
The journalist and commentator has worked in senior editorial positions in various publications, including India Today, The Indian Express and The Times of India. A gifted writer, he has consistently supported the Sangh Parivar and defended Modi in his regular columns in newspapers and on TV channels over the years. He is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan. Dasgupta accompanied BJP leader L K Advani on his “rath” throughout his Bharat Uday Yatra from Kanyakumari to Amritsar in 2004 in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. He shouldered the same responsibility with Rajnath Singh when he undertook the Bharat Suraksha Yatra from Puri to Delhi in 2006. Like Swamy and Sidhu, Dasgupta would add to the BJP firing capacity in the Upper House.
Mary Kom, 33
An Olympic bronze medallist in boxing, Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom belongs to the Sino-Tibetan speaking Kom tribe of Manipur. A five-time World Amateur Boxing champion, and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships, she became the first Indian woman boxer to get a gold medal in the Asian Games in 2014 in Incheon, South Korea. The BJP-led government has picked her for the Upper House to provide representation to the north-eastern states and send a positive signal to the sizeable Christian population in the region. Mary has published an autobiography, Unbreakable, co-authored by Dina Serto.
Suresh Gopinath, 56
Popular Malayalam actor Gopi holds a Masters’ degree in English. With over 200 films to his credit, he has also been the host of a popular TV show Ningalkkum Aakaam Kodeeshwaran (You Can Be A Millionaire). He is a winner of the National Film Award and Filmfare Award. His nomination is intended to provide representation to south India. Belonging to the upper-case Nair community, Gopi is currently a star campaigner for BJP in Kerala Assembly polls. His nomination is expected to go down well with members of his community and help the BJP spread its wings in the state. Kerala is already abuzz with rumours that it may be just the first step towards his induction into the Modi ministry as a minister of state.