New Delhi: A day after President Pratibha Patil approved the nomination of cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar to the Rajya Sabha, the Congress party is taking the credit for the move. Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam on Friday even said that the batting maestro was welcome to join the party if he wanted to do so.
Congress's move has been welcomed across the political spectrum, but questions are also being raised about the timing of the announcement. It comes at a time when the Congress and its president Sonia Gandhi are being ambushed by the Opposition on the floor of the House over the Bofors controversy. Sources say that the Congress is hoping that the feel good news will help deflect the criticism and attacks.
Sachin accepted the offer to be nominated to the Upper House of Parliament after a meeting with Sonia Gandhi in the capital on Thursday. The Centre had recommended his name along with three others.
Meanwhile, reacting to the invitation by Nirupam, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said that it was a matter between the Congress and Sachin himself.
Party spokesperson Sanjay Raut, however, said that the Bharat Ratna should have come for the icon before the Rajya Sabha seat.
Raut said, "There are people from various fields in the Rajya Sabha. We demand that the government should give him the Bharat Ratna first. As for the Rajya Sabha, we will always welcome him."
Meanwhile, Samjwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh said that it was up to Sachin to decide on which political party he wanted to join.
He said, "The nomination is correct, we welcome Sachin. Not which party he joins, it is up to Sachin to decide."
In fact, cutting across party line, all the leaders have hailed the move to nominate Sachin for the Rajya Sabha seat. Key UPA partner Trinamool Congress said that the move would inspire the young generation, calling the decision a fine one.
"Selection of Sachin is a fine decision. The young generation will be inspired. The presidential nominee is justified, it has its owner and the TMC is happy," said TMC MP Sudip Bandopadhyay.
Meanwhile, welcoming the cricketer to the Rajya Sabha, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said that Sachin should try to contribute constructively for sports.
Welcoming the move, the BJP has expressed hope that the iconic batsman will devote time to Parliament.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "Sachin is a great player and we are proud of him. If Sachin is being nominated, surely he would devote some time to Parliament."
Another BJP leader, Najma Heptullah, said there could not have been a better choice than Sachin.
She said, "I am happy for Sachin. Last time when I spoke to the media on his birthday, I had said that I hope that government nominates him for Rajya Sabha. There is no one better than Sachin. I am happy."
The Left, meanwhile, termed the nomination has as "a real recognition of sports talent". It, however, added that former captain Saurav Ganguly could also have been considered.
"Sachin's nomination is a real recognition of sports talent. Saurav Ganguly could also have been considered when he was in his top form," said CPM MP Gurudas Dasgupta.
Dasgupta also had a word of caution on the move: "It should not be highlighted that they are patronising cricket. There are other sports also."
Should Sachin Tendulkar join the Congress party?