A press release issued by the president’s secretariat on July 14 read, “President nominates four members to Rajya Sabha.” The four nominated were Ram Shakal, Rakesh Sinha, Raghunath Mohapatra and Sonal Mansingh.
The brief biography of Ram Shakal says, “He is an eminent people’s leader and public representative from Uttar Pradesh... He has also been a three-time member of Parliament, representing Robertsganj constituency of Uttar Pradesh.”
The press release further said, “...in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 80 of the Constitution of India, and on the advice of the Prime Minister, the President of India is pleased to make the following four nominations to the Rajya Sabha.” Clause 3 of Article 80 of the Constitution says that the members to be nominated by the President “shall consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following, namely: literature, science, art and social service.”
The nomination route to Parliament aims to provide an opportunity to musicians, actors, poets and social workers, who are not likely to contest elections to win a seat. And yet Ram Shakal, who has been elected to Lok Sabha three times, has made it to the President’s list of nominees.
Clearly, an active politician like him should get into Parliament through the elections and not nominations. But then this is not the first time that an active politician has been brought into Parliament using the easy route of nomination.
In April 2016, BJP leaders Subramanian Swamy and Navjot Singh Sidhu (now in the Congress) were nominated to the upper house by the President on recommendation of the Narendra Modi government.
In the past too, many politicians like Jagmohan, Bhupinder Singh Mann, Prakash Ambedkar and Ghulam Rasool Kar have got entry to the Rajya Sabha through this route.
The most controversial was the nomination of Mani Shankar Aiyar by the Manmohan Singh government after he lost the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. The BJP vigorously opposed his nomination. Taking strong exception to Aiyar’s nomination for his contribution to literature, then BJP spokesperson Ram Nath Kovind quoted Article 80 of the Constitution and said that only those who fall in the prescribed format of the Constitution should be nominated.
The BJP spokesperson claimed that Aiyar did not qualify in any of these categories as he has been a "committed worker" of the Congress. Kovind further said, "Aiyar's nomination is against the spirit of the Constitution and violates all established conventions. This is misuse of power by the present Congress-led government.”
In 2010, as spokesperson of the BJP, Ram Nath Kovind opposed the nomination of a “committed worker” of the Congress party. But President Kovind in 2018 signed on the dotted lines, when a “committed worker” of the BJP was nominated for the upper house.
It does seem that President Kovind has paid no heed to the sane advice that the BJP spokesperson Kovind had once upon a time offered to those in power.