New Delhi: With his iconic “tarikh pe tarikh, tarikh pe tarikh” monologue in the hit 90s movie Damini, actor Sunny Deol voiced the frustration of the common man against the snail-paced judiciary system. Ironically, the actor-turned-politician has failed miserably to speak out for his people where it matters most — the 17th Lok Sabha where he is an MP from Punjab’s Gurdaspur.
Consider this: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP did not attend the just-concluded Winter session of Parliament even as barely a year-and-a-half is left for the current Lok Sabha to end. Not that the past three-and-a-half years are much to speak of — Deol asked one question in all that time against 156, the national average of questions asked by an MP, probably creating a record of sorts.
Back in 2019, Deol was a surprise choice as the BJP candidate to take on Congress’ then MP Sunil Jakhar, who is now in the same party like his one time-rival. While the BJP may have got lucky with Deol’s win, the actor seems to have failed miserably in his new role.
A look at Deol’s Twitter account shows that it is seemingly being used as a promotion vehicle for his forthcoming film projects. ThePrint reached the Gurdaspur MP via calls and messages for a comment, but did not receive a response till the time of publication. This report will be updated when a response is received.
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According to data from the PRS, a Delhi-based non-government research organisation focusing on legislative functioning, it was during the budget session of 2020 (January-March) that Deol asked his sole question pertaining to illegal mining of sand from the rivers — an issue that continues to find resonance in Punjab.
As far as his attendance in Parliament goes, there was a no-show in monsoon session (July-August 2022), like the winter session, and it was 11 per cent during the budget session the same year. His best was 65 per cent in the winter session of 2019 while his average attendance in Parliament is only 21 per cent against the national average of 79 per cent, as per the PRS.
Also, Deol has neither bothered to participate in any Parliamentary debate, nor has he introduced a single private member’s bill — both inarguably among the most effective ways for an MP to participate in the law-making process.
The current Lok Sabha has seen quite a few contentious issues, ranging from the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir to the National Citizenship Amendment Act, and Covid, being debated by lawmakers. Deol skipped them all against the national average of MPs at 39.7 per cent. He has not introduced any private member’s bill ever, while the national average is 1.2.
Deols in the House
Sunny’s father and actor Dharmendra also tried his luck in politics. Dharmendra contested the 2004 Lok Sabha election from Bikaner in Rajasthan and won. But he also never took politics seriously.
The veteran actor barely attended Parliament sessions or visited his constituency. The posters of his ‘disappearance’ would keep popping up during his 2004-09 term. However, he had the candour to admit to the media personnel, while answering their questions at Parliament House back then, that “BJP leader Pramod Mahajan trapped me into entering politics”, and that he did not know that being a Lok Sabha MP was such a lot of hard work. It is not surprising that Dharmendra never contested any election after that.
Meanwhile, even at the age of 74, Hema Malini, the MP from Mathura and Dharmendra’s wife, is fairly regular in Parliament, registering her presence in every session. Her average attendance is 50 per cent, according to the PRS data.
In the last three-and-a-half-years, she has asked 74 questions and has participated in 17 debates on issues including the surrogacy bill, discussion on the President’s address, and a law for the protection of doctors. She has also regularly been a part of local events in Mathura.
Missing in action
It is not just Parliament where Deol is missing from, but his constituency as well. In October 2022, an irate public put up posters with the message ‘Search for the missing’ in Pathankot.
Leaders of the opposition parties said the only time the BJP MP was seen in his constituency was in 2020 during Covid.
“In these three-and-a-half years, Deol has not done any development work in this area, nor has the benefit of central schemes reached the public. He had appointed a personal representative here who is seen occasionally. He calls himself the son of Punjab but never comes here,” a leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) told ThePrint.
Similar posters had come up in 2020 as well. Deol had then hit back at his detractors with a video on Facebook, asking them to spend their energy in doing social and development work.
In his defence, Deol’s personal assistant in Gurdaspur, Pankaj Sharma, told ThePrint that the actor-turned-MP’s visits should not matter as long as he gets development work done.
Deol got a community centre, an open gymnasium, and many toilets built, Sharma said, adding that he also got the approval for the construction of a Rs 100-crore bridge on river Ravi to link 12 border villages.
One of Deol’s close associates said that “the actor may spend a lot of time in Mumbai, but he has never been negligent in carrying out development work in Gurdaspur” and that he does attend Parliament “when he gets time”.
“Making a film actor an MP has its advantages and disadvantages. He (Deol) may bring in the votes by his popularity but politics is not his priority. They (parties) use this strategy to win seats, but the people of the area have to bear the loss (that it entails in the long run). Even during the state elections, Deol did not campaign for the party,” a Punjab BJP leader conceded to ThePrint.
BJP’s Jakhar told ThePrint, “The public should also think…He will not come after winning, but the public voted him to power. This is not happening for the first time, the public and democracy will have to be strong so that they avoid voting for irresponsible people.”
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)
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