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    Default Meet Sachin Tendulkar, your new Rajya Sabha MP

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    Catching everyone off guard, Sachin Tendulkar arrived in the Capital ostensibly for the Mumbai Indians hot-button IPL game versus table toppers Delhi Daredevils, but instead was seen entering 10 Janpath to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi with wife Anjali in tow. Rahul Gandhi was present at the meeting and so was defence minister A. K. Antony.

    Soon after, news emerged that Tendulkar was headed for the Rajya Sabha as a nominated member.

    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had shot off a letter to the home ministry on Wednesday proposing the name of Sachin and three others, including one-time Bollywood heart-throb Rekha, in the distinguished members' category.

    On Thursday, the home ministry forwarded the recommendation to President Pratibha Patil and by late evening she had signed the file, clearing the decks for the master blaster's entry into the House of Elders.

    Some Congress leaders including Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Union Minister for Earth Sciences Vilasrao Deshmukh have been quietly lobbying for honouring Sachin in some form or the other.

    Balancing his new-found dual role, Tendulkar was seen batting at the nets for the crunch game at Ferozeshah Kotla in the evening. But he refused to field any questions from the waiting mediapersons on this development.

    Retirement is definitely not in the offing.

    Flannelled whites and khadi may well go hand in hand, though Friday will see the master in coloured clothing.

    The holder of 100 international centuries will be the first playing cricketer and sportsman to be nominated to the House of Elders. Tendulkar's nomination to the Rajya Sabha has come as a surprise against the backdrop of a long-standing demand to confer on him the Bharat Ratna for his contribution to the game.

    Earlier this year Maharashtra Chief Minister Chavan had recommended his name for the Bharat Ratna. But some in the political circles felt he was too young to be conferred the highest civilian award.

    Officially the Congress said Sonia wanted to meet Tendulkar and personally congratulate him on scoring the historic 100 international centuries.

    But sources said the main agenda was his nomination to the Rajya Sabha.

    Congress sources said the move to bring Sachin to Parliament started a month back. Sonia, Manmohan and Rahul played an active role in getting the iconic cricketer nominated to the Upper House.

    Party insiders said Sachin's induction in Parliament is an investment for the future, especially in Maharashtra where the Congress is struggling hard to retain its ground against a resurgent BJP-Shiv Sena combine and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

    That the Congress was stealing a march over its political rivals didn't go down well with the Shiv Sena. Senior Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, also the editor of the party mouthpiece Saamna said that while they don't oppose Tendulkar's nomination to the Rajya Sabha, he felt the government was trying to gain political capital out of it.

    "Why give a Rajya Sabha nomination to him when the whole country wants that he be given the Bharat Ratna? It (Congress) is simply trying to gain political capital out of it," Raut said.



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