Sachin Tendulkar was again under attack in Rajya Sabha today for his prolonged absence even as the cricket icon sought to control damage by applying for leave for the entire Budget session, which was granted amid strong opposition from members.
Members cutting across party line termed his long absence as "disrespect to House and nation" and there were demands for seeking an explanation from him particularly when he was here in Delhi to attend a programme near Parliament last week but did not come to Rajya Sabha.
The issue cropped up during Zero Hour as soon as Deputy Chairman P J Kurien sought permission of the House for grant of leave to Sachin, who has attended the House only three times since his nomination over two years back.
Kurien said Sachin has sent a leave application expressing inability to attend the 232nd session (current session) of Rajya Sabha on account of "professional and personal commitments and family exigencies."
Naresh Agarwal (SP) immediately objected to grant of leave to him saying, "Sachin Tendulakar had come to Delhi to attend a function at Vigyan Bhawan near Parliament but did not come to the House. Members' views are unanimous that he has no respect for the House."
Sachin was at a programme in Vigyan Bhawan, nearly 3 km from Parliament, on August 8 where he said he could not attend the House because his elder brother had to undergo a heart surgery.
Responding to Agarwal's contention, Kurien observed, "So many members remain absent for various reasons and it is for the Chair to investigate why they didn't come. You cannot object." To this Agarwal retorted, "Sachin should give an explanation why he did not come to the House and Chair will have to note his (Agarwal's) objection. Tell me under which rule I cannot object to it. Please bring my objection to record." Satyavrat Chaturvedi (Cong) too supported Agarwal saying, "A wrong precedent is being set. No one should be allowed to remain absent like this. This is not acceptable. They should realise that they cannot do like this."
But Kurien said, "His leave application has been received. We have to take it on face value as we are not here to probe and find out the veracity of it. Every member is a respected member. Leave is granted." To this, a large number of members shouted "no" in chorus. Agarwal again objected to it saying members have "respect to the Chair" but grant of leave is not acceptable. Naresh Gujral (SAD) supported Agarwal saying, "It is disrespect to the country. If eminent people who are nominated to the House do not come, it will set a bad precedent."
Amid protests, Kurien said "no discussion is allowed on the subject" and added, "In the leave letter he has written he is unable to come due to professional and personal commitment and family exigencies. It is not for the Chair and members to agree...Permission to remain absent is granted."
Tendulkar was nominated by Congress to the Rajya Sabha for his exemplary contribution in sports. He has been under attack in Parliament for attending the House for only three days since his nomination in April 2012. He came to the House last time on December 13, 2013.
Last week when the issue was raised in the Upper House, Kurien has said, "As per Article 104 of the Constitution, if a member is absent from either House of Parliament for a period of 60 days then the seat is considered vacant. In case of Sachin Tendulkar, he has not attended the Parliament for 40 days."