The celebrities have hit the campaign trail. There’s Rakhi Sawant in her curious green outfit, Gul Panag on her Bullet, Bappi Lahiri weighed down by bling and Baichung Bhutia with his balls.
But the glamour aside, the truth about celebrities in politics is grim. With scarce participation in debates, scarcer questions and sometimes even shoddy attendance, they make for some of the laziest lawmakers in the country.
An analysis of the performance of eleven ‘celebrity’ Lok Sabha MPs is telling. According to data from PRS Legislative Research, these eleven stars collectively partook in only 89 debates for the five years that they sat in Parliament. The average number of debates per member during the same period is 34.
It wasn’t much better when it came to asking questions. Although the average number of questions per member is about 275, a total of 871 questions were raised between the eleven of them since May 2009.
Most of that was thanks to veteran ‘celebrity’ parliamentarians Jayapradha and Kirti Azad, who collectively raised 691 of these 871 questions. Another 99 came from Navjot Singh Sidhu, another veteran who it would seem does not quite like attending Parliament. In the chronically disrupted 15th Lok Sabha, the former cricketer only turned up 28% of the time. His attendance on NDTV, in all probability, was higher.
The worst, however, are the film stars.
Satabdi Roy and Tapas Paul from the Trinamool Congress have not asked a single question during their entire term. Not one single question, even though together they represent nearly 300,000 voters in West Bengal.
Undeterred, Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress have unleashed more star power from Tollywood in these elections: current heartthrob Dev and yesteryear star Moon Moon Sen among them. The former, who suggested that rape should be “enjoyed”, and the latter who seems to have “no idea” about politics.
There’s more. The 31-year-old star MP from Karnataka’s Mandya, Ramya Divya Spandana – or Ramya (as she’s better known) – didn’t think it important to ask a question in Parliament either. While she’s only had less than a year to try that out, having been elected in August 2013, the DMK’s D. Napoleon has no such excuse. The actor-turned-MP from Tamil Nadu’s Perambalur has an attendance of 4 percent, no questions, no debates and no private member bills.
Still starry-eyed about your neighborhood celebrity-turned-politician?
Devjyot Ghoshal is a professional deadline beater and a multimedia journalist. Currently, he spends time attending lectures at the Columbia Journalism School. He argues with random people @devjyotghoshal