Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a conversation with Sachin Tendulkar at the second day of the third Test against Australia in Mohali on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi, March 15: If the whole of India is delighted that Sachin Tendulkar is still playing Tests, those grinning the widest are his team-mates.
Not the ten at Mohali but the 240-odd in New Delhi.
Rajya Sabha members today erupted in mirth when the cricketer’s application for leave from the House — to play against Australia — came up along with one from former foreign minister S.M. Krishna.
Parliament rules stipulate that members’ leave applications are read out during a session and the House decides whether to grant permission.
But when deputy chairman P.J. Kurien sought the Rajya Sabha’s permission to grant leave to Sachin and Krishna, Samajwadi member Naresh Agarwal rose from his seat like a ball rearing unexpectedly from the good length spot.
What followed may be deemed the cricket equivalent of a “sledge” — something bowlers have learnt to never direct at one of history’s greatest batsmen.
“They hardly come to the House. Why not give both of them permanent leave?” Agarwal joked, and the entire House broke into guffaws.
Fans tempted to see even a good-natured dig at their cricket “God” as blasphemy may console themselves with the thought that members of Parliament enjoy a certain privilege with what they say in the House.
The “permanent leave” quip was possibly a reference to Clause 4 of Article 101 of the Constitution, which says that if a member is absent for 60 days without permission, his or her seat can be taken as vacant — in other words, the member is disqualified from the House.
Permission, of course, was granted without fuss ---- unlike the current Australian team management, nobody in India wants to see their best players missing out on Tests for non-cricket reasons.
Sachin had sought leave from February 21 till March 7, which means he will soon be moving another application for further leave to play the ongoing third Test and the fourth.
Members can renew their permission for leave at regular intervals; there’s no cap on how long a member can extend his or her leave.
The context to Agarwal’s remark was that Sachin, nominated to the Rajya Sabha on April 27 last year, has rarely been present in the House.
Since taking his oath on June 4, when he told a reporter that “cricket comes first”, Sachin has not had too much to say in the House during his infrequent visits.
Around October, he had written to then human resource development minister Kapil Sibal that he wanted to make a presentation on sports education in schools, but has not yet found time to do it.
Actress Rekha, nominated the same day as Sachin, rivals his attendance record. Krishna, who today sought leave from March 5 to March 22 for personal reasons, too has been absent frequently since losing his foreign ministry portfolio.
Imposition of “permanent leave” has so far happened only once in the history of the Rajya Sabha.
Independent member Brajinder Singh Hamdard’s seat was declared vacant on December 21, 2000, because of unauthorised absence from the House for more than 60 days.
Hamdard, managing editor of a newspaper in Punjab, had been elected to the House on April 10, 1998, for a six-year term. The motion to declare his seat vacant was moved by Pramod Mahajan, then parliamentary affairs minister in the NDA government.
“Members are given adequate elbow room, and the period of 60 days is a long time. Only days when the House sits are counted while determining the 60-day period; days on which the House is adjourned without transacting any business are not taken into account,” a senior official said.
“In 2012, the Rajya Sabha sat for only 74 days; so the 60-day clause provides a long rope.”
Only once has the Rajya Sabha rejected a member’s leave application.
In 1976, Subramanium Swamy had pleaded that he was on a “foreign tour” and would not be able to return in time for a particular session. He had sought leave from March 8 till April 3.
But for reasons that could not be ascertained, several members opposed Swamy’s application. The then chairperson of the House, Vice-President B.D. Jatti, ruled that leave would not be granted.