Usual suspects: meet the 6 people BJP may soon send to the Rajya Sabha
At least six public figures who are known to be vocal supporters of the BJP may soon become Members of Parliament. There are seven vacancies in the Rajya Sabha's quota of 12 nominated members and the Modi regime is close to filling six of them. The nominations are to be made by 20 April.
The BJP is currently in a minority in the 245-member Upper House, holding 48 seats.
The seven seats fell vacant after the terms of the following members, who had been nominated by the previous UPA government, ended.
Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar
Scriptwriter and lyricist Javed Akhtar
Vocalist Bombay Jayashri
Educationist Mrinal Miri
Former Planning Commission member Bhalchandra Mungekar
Former Hindustan Times editor HK Dua
Former Chairman of Hindustan Lever Ashok S Ganguly
While the terms of Dua and Ganguly expired on 17 November, the others vacated their seats on 21 March.
Of the Rajya Sabha's 245 members, the President nominates 12. They should ideally "have special knowledge or practical experience" in varied fields like literature, science, art and social service.
While many such people have indeed been nominated to the House over the years, the ruling parties often use this mechanism to rehabilitate their leaders who couldn't win or weren't fielded in Lok Sabha elections. It is also used to reward people outside the political arena who support the agenda of the ruling dispensation in their own ways.
Keeping to the script, the BJP is mulling nominating at least six such public figures. The are:
1) Anupam Kher: The veteran actor's wife Kirron Kher is already a BJP member of the Lok Sabha. Kher himself was recently awarded the Padma Bhushan. He's a vocal supporter of the BJP, specifically of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In November 2015, he led a widely-publicised march to counter the Award Wapsi campaign against rising intolerance.
2) Salim Khan: The co-writer of Sholay, along with outgoing Rajya Sabha member Javed Akhtar, has been known as an ardent supporter of Modi for a long time. He hit the headlines last year saying the prime minister "honestly believes in sab ka sath, sab ka vikas" and that if Muslims wanted to live in India, they must respect the nation and its culture.
Khan recently joined twitter with a "salaam" to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and a proud exultation of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai".
3) Rajat Sharma: The editor of India TV was a general secretary of the ABVP, the RSS' student front, during his college days, and was jailed during the Emergency. Since the BJP came to power, his news channel has attracted sustained criticism for its pro-government coverage, especially of the recent controversies over the alleged "anti-national" activities at the JNU.
4) Subhash Chandra: The Chairman of the Essel group of companies, which owns Zee News, was once actively associated with the RSS. His channel, too, has received a lot of flak for its "jingoistic coverage" of the JNU controversy. He has, however, also been close to the Congress in the past.
Interestingly, it was Chandra who gave Rajat Sharma his first break, airing his trademark show Aap Ki Adalat, which he still hosts, on Zee News.
5) Swapan Dasgupta: The veteran journalist and commentator is known for his right-wing leanings; he describes himself as "politically conservative". He too was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2015. Dasgupta is said to be also in the running for the directorship of Nehru Memorial in New Delhi.
6) Rakesh Sinha: The honorary director of the right-wing think tank India Policy Foundation, Sinha has emerged as a prominent defender of the Sangh Parivar on TV and other public platforms. The author of a biography of RSS founder KB Hedgewar, he proudly claims to stand for "cultural nationalism" and an "egalitarian social order" that encourages the pursuit of "Ram and roti".