The Indian president has approved Sachin Tendulkar's nomination to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament. Tendulkar met the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday and was offered a seat in the upper house's nominated category. He accepted the offer and his name went from the prime minister's office to the home ministry, and then the office of the President, who formally approved the candidature.
Tendulkar will fill one of 12 seats in the Rajya Sabha that are reserved for those persons "having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service." Tendulkar is the first sportsman to be nominated in this category, which has no election process. (Former Indian hockey captain Dilip Tirkey, who took oath as a Rajya Sabha yesterday, was elected.) Previous nominated MPs, who serve a six-year term, include the musician Ravi Shankar, the singer Lata Mangeshkar and the artist MF Husain.
Tendulkar's nomination had not been expected to meet with much opposition, given his stature in India. The nomination came from the ruling Congress party, which is currently fighting political battles on various fronts. Before meeting the prime minister, Tendulkar and his wife Anjali met the Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who reportedly congratulated him on his hundred international centuries.
The reaction from the main opposition party, the BJP, was swift and unambiguous. The party's chief spokesperson, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said: "Sachin is a great player. We are proud of him. If Sachin is being nominated surely he will devote some time to Parliament."
The BCCI also welcomed the move. "We are happy that Tendulkar's services as a sportsperson has been recognised," the Indian board's chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty told PTI. "He's been a true ambassador for the country and he deserves it."
However, commentators on the game were less enthusiastic in their response. Sanjay Manjrekar, a former team-mate of Tendulkar's and now a media analyst, said he was shocked at the news, because he could never have imagined this to be how Tendulkar wound down his career. "My only fear is that this man is not suited for the kind of role he is being given. Until now, I've seen no sign of that. Even when the contracts dispute was on, when a players' association was being formed, it was Anil Kumble in the forefront." Manjrekar also wondered how Tendulkar would balance his cricket and commitments as an MP.
Harsha Bhogle had a similar opinion*. "If the nomination is an honour, I am all for it," he said. "But if it is an attempt at improving governance in India, then he doesn't have the experience."
*02:59, April 27: Harsha Bhogle's quote has been updated.