- Most lawmakers have 50% attendance in the ongoing Lok Sabha session
- This is happening despite PM's warning, a senior parliamentarian said
- Parliamentarians should mark their attendance at least once in 59 days
If parliamentary attendance can be compared to performance in examinations, India's celebrity lawmakers would score average marks or less. Data accessed by NDTV has revealed that many of them have barely registered 50% attendance in the ongoing Lok Sabha session so far.
Sunny Deol, Bollywood actor-turned-Gurdaspur parliamentarian, attended just five of the 11 days so far in the 17th Lok Sabha's monsoon session. He was missing even on Tuesday, which happened to be the twelfth day.
His stepmother Hema Malini - who represents Mathura in the Lok Sabha - dropped by for six days out of 11 while East Delhi parliamentarian Gautam Gambhir scored a little better with seven. Trinamool Congress parliamentarians Nusrat Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty, who represent Basirhat and Jadhavpur respectively, also fared badly in this regard. They have attended the Lok Sabha only on two days so far.
"This is happening despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi making it clear that lawmakers should be regular in parliament. These celebrities twist the rules and regulations to their convenience," a senior Lok Sabha parliamentarian told NDTV on the condition of anonymity.
Gorakhpur parliamentarian Ravi Kishan, however, sought to dispel suggestions that actor-turned-politicians don't take their work seriously. "I don't know about them, but I am very regular with my attendance. Mine is 100%. I have been learning a lot in the past few days," said Mr Kishan, who has performed in Hindi and Bhojpuri films.
The constitution requires sitting parliamentarians to mark their attendance at least once in 59 days. The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha is expected to extend over 30 days.
Meanwhile, Sunny Deol has been wading from one controversy to another ever since the BJP announced his candidature from Gurdaspur. In the most recent incident, he was accused by the Congress of betraying the voters' mandate by appointing a writer as his "representative" in the Lok Sabha constituency.
While Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee head Sunil Jakhar claimed that taking such a step was "unfair" to voters, Rajya Sabha member KTS Tulsi was more scathing in his criticism. "If Sunny Deol thinks someone else is better suited to listening to people's grievances, he should resign and let the other person contest," he said.
However, BJP leader Tarun Chugh defended the Gurdaspur lawmaker by citing Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's example. "I want to remind people who are raising questions on Sunny Deol that RG lost Amethi because he did not visit it for five years," he said. Another ruling party parliamentarian told NDTV on the condition of anonymity that while many political leaders informally appoint representatives because they cannot be present in their constituencies all the time, Sunny Deol had made the mistake of putting it on paper.
The Gurdaspur lawmaker, for his part, said it was "extremely unfortunate" that a controversy was being created out of nothing. "I have appointed my Personal Assistant to represent my office in Gurdaspur. This has been done to ensure smooth flow of work whenever I am out of Gurdaspur to attend parliament or travelling on work," Sunny Deol said in a statement.
Officials in the Lok Sabha secretariat claim that attendance data would be available online by the end of this week. "There has been a delay because all MPs have not been allotted seat numbers yet. Attendance data should be uploaded on the Lok Sabha website by the end of the week," an official said.
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