Hema Malini sits on a tractor during election campaigning ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in Mathura. (Source: PTI)

Celebrity MPs: Lower Attendance, But More Efficient With Development Funds

Celebrity Members of Parliament—film artistes and singers—logged lower attendance, participated in fewer debates, asked fewer questions but used their constituency development funds better than the average of all MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha, our analysis of track records of 19 such MPs shows.

On average, the 19 celebrity MPs logged 66 percent attendance compared to the 16th Lok Sabha average of 80 percent, an IndiaSpend analysis of parliament data shows. Only six celebrity MPs marked attendance of 80 percent or above. Bharatiya Janata Party MP and yesteryears’ star Hema Malini, who pretended to plough a farm during an election photoshoot, logged 39 percent attendance.

Of parliamentary debates, celebrity MPs on average participated in 22 against the 16th Lok Sabha average of 67, with only one MP reporting higher (participation in 107 debates). On average, celebrity MPs asked 101 questions, while all MPs together asked an average of 293. BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha, also a yesteryears’ film star and now with the Congress party, took part in no debate and asked no questions.

At the same time, celebrity MPs utilised their Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme funds better than all MPs’ average--87.6 percent compared to 82.9 percent, as on April 5, 2019. Each MP is allocated Rs 5 crore per year of their tenure for development to recommend works in the districts under their constituency to the district collector.

Film personalities are common in politics, and increasingly visible in campaigning and contesting elections due to the attention they attract on social media.

Some of the prominent first-timer celebrities contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections include actors Sunny Deol, Urmila Matondkar and Prakash Raj and the singer Hans Raj Hans.

IndiaSpend assessed the performance of 19 such celebrities by their participation in parliamentary proceedings--debates, questions, private member bills, government bills, and so on.

These MPs were selected based on their profession as stated in their profile--‘Actor, Comedian’, ‘Actress in Film/Theatre/Television’, ‘Artist’, ‘Artist (Singer)’, ‘Bhojpuri Singer’, ‘Film Artist’ and ‘Performing Artiste’.

Attendance Below Average

The 16th Lok Sabha sat for a total of 331 days from June 2014 to February 2019. The average attendance of all MPs was 80 percent, an analysis by PRS Legislative shows. Celebrity MPs, by contrast, had 66 percent attendance on average.

Among the celebrity MPs, actor George Baker reported the maximum (98 percent) attendance. Baker, an Assamese and Bengali film actor, is a nominated MP--nominated from West Bengal by the BJP as a member of the Anglo-Indian community on July 23, 2015. He assumed office on Aug. 10, 2015, attending 223 of 228 days during his term.

BJP MP Sharadkumar Bansode from Maharashtra’s Solapur constituency, formerly a Marathi film actor and now an advocate, reported 93 percent attendance (307 of 331 days).

Logging a better attendance record were film artist and Bhojpuri singer Chhotelal (88 percent), Telugu film actor Murali Mohan Maganti (85 percent) and film and television actor Kirron Kher (84 percent).

Deepak (Dev) Adhikari, a Bengali film actor, from West Bengal’s Ghatal constituency who represents the All India Trinamool Congress, reported the least (11 percent) attendance. Other MPs in the list with low attendance include Bollywood film actor Hema Malini (39 percent), Bengali actor Tapas Paul (47 percent), Bengali actor Sandhya Roy (53 percent) and Punjabi actor and comedian Bhagwant Mann (56 percent).

Low Participation In Parliamentary Business

From the celebrity list, BJP MP from Chandigarh, Kirron Kher, asked the maximum (335) questions, above the 16th Lok Sabha average of 293.

Telugu film actor Murali Mohan Maganti from Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh was next with 267 questions, followed by Bhojpuri singer and actor Manoj Tiwari (258), George Baker (255), and actor Innocent (217) who is primarily known for his works in Malayalam cinema.

Moon Moon Sen, an actor primarily known for her works in Bengali cinema, Odia film actor Sidhant Mohapatra and Shatrughan Sinha did not ask a single question in their five-year terms.

Bhagwant Mann participated in the most debates, 107, above the 16th Lok Sabha average of 67.

Mann was followed by Murali Mohan Maganti (55), Kirron Kher (44), Innocent (40) and George Baker (33), all below the national average.

While Shatrughan Sinha did not participate in any debate, Moon Moon Sen participated in one, the least among the 19 celebrity MPs.

Better MPLADS Utilisation

MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha utilised 85 percent of the developmental funds they were allocated, leaving 15 percent unutilised--Rs 1,806.08 crore of the total amount of Rs 12,051.36 crore, IndiaSpend reported on April 6, 2019.

Sandhya Roy reported the maximum (98.8 percent) utilisation of MPLADS funds among the 19 celebrity MPs, as on April 5, 2019, higher than the average.

Deepak (Dev) Adhikari (96.7 percent) was next in the celebrity list after Roy, followed by Satabdi (Banerjee) Roy (95.6 percent), an actor known for her work in Bengali cinema, Kirron Kher (91.2 percent) and Shatrughan Sinha (91.1 percent). Babul Supriyo reported the least (74.1 percent) utilisation of MPLAD funds.

(Mallapur is a senior policy analyst with IndiaSpend. With data inputs by Faizi Noor Ahmad, an intern with IndiaSpend.)

This copy was published in a special arrangement with IndiaSpend.