The Indian Parliament’s Upper House, the Rajya Sabha, is a permanent house of 250 members. 238 of them are elected, while the President of India nominates the remaining 12. Article 80 of The Constitution mandates this. The objective is to nominate eminent personalities from the field of “Literature, Art and Social Sciences.” Following this guideline, a host of prominent names have adorned the Rajya Sabha’s seats, including stalwarts from the entertainment industry, sportspersons, social workers, lawyers and judges among many others, such as Dr. Bhalchandra Mungrekar, Ranjan Gogoi and Shabana Azmi.
N Gopalaswami Ayyangar, an eminent civil servant and member of the Constitution Drafting committee introduced the nominated members of the Rajya Sabha. He felt the Parliament could benefit from the inputs and insights of seasoned veterans, who would be significant to house proceedings without engaging in politics. Jawaharlal Nehru echoed the sentiment, stating that “they (the representatives) represent really the high watermark of literature or art or culture or whatever it may be” . Using the TCPD-Rajya Sabha Dataset and the PRS Legislative Research’s publicly available dataset on Members of Parliaments. This article analyzes whether the tenets established in 1952 continue to ring true today.
According to the dataset, 143 candidates have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha from March 1952 to July 2022. 111 were independent of any political party, 14 were associated with the BJP and 16 with the INC.
Moreover, an elementary analysis suggests a total of 24 female candidates were nominated.
Fig 1: The Gender Split of the Nominated members to the Rajya Sabha
As things stand, a lot more needs to be done to introduce equitable gender representation to the Upper House. Analyzing the effects of the Women’s Reservation Bill 2010 could prove fruitful to gauge whether women’s participation has increased post its introduction.
Using available data from the last twelve years, this article performs a comparative analysis of the nominated members’ and elected members’ participation in the House.
Thanks to the PRS dataset, I mapped the performance of all nominated members across the last six years, from Subramanian Swamy, nominated in April 2016, to Vijayendra Prasad, nominated in July 2022.
The three metrics I used to measure activity were:
- Percentage attendance
- Number of debates attended
- Number of questions asked
While “Number of private bills” proposed was an available metric, I chose to not consider it. Private bills are typically outliers; most members do not float private bills in the Parliament, evident from the national average of 0.7 bills floated per member
By using the TCPD-RSD dataset to obtain the name of everyone who has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha while using the PRS MP tracker to track their activity in the sessions, it results in the creation of this datasets which informs us of how have the nominated members performed over the past six years. This analysis provides a stepping stone in the conversations about the future of the Rajya Sabha’s nominated seats. It encourages an enquiry into whether any scope exists to make the process more holistic and equitable.
Fig 2: The Political Activity of all nominated members over the past few years.
Note: This visualization is not complete nor interactive, please refer to the following link to access a comparative visualization which can be adjusted for Number of questions, attendance percentage and the likes
The three key insights from this dataset are as follows:
- The Percentage Attendance was, on average, in the same range as the national average of all MPs. The nominated members’ average is 68 % while the national average is 79%.
- The Number of Debates attended by the nominated members, on average, was higher than the national average, with the nominated members attending 1.3 debates more than the average MP
- Number of Questions reveals the starkest difference observed. Nominated members asked 96.5 questions on average compared to elected members’ average of 28.62. This suggests nominated members asked 67.88 more questions at an average in their term!
Fig 3: The attendance (in percentage) of Nominated Members versus the average attendance of all Members of Parliament
Fig 4: The number of debates attended by the Nominated members versus the average number of debates attended by Members of Parliament
Fig 5: The average number of questions asked by a nominated member versus the average number of questions asked by a Member of Parliament in their term.
In the future, it might be illustrative to gather and analyze data on the median percentage attendance, debates attended and questions asked by nominated members since averages tend to be skewed by outliers. This implies that the national averages in all comparisons are not truly indicative of the involvement of the average Member of Parliament in the proceedings of the respective house. Hence, an understanding of the median values of said parameters will foster a path to more nuanced analyses.
While these results mark an encouraging trend in nominated members, it is also a glaring indictment of the relatively little participation elected representatives engage in throughout their term.
Public perception focuses on the silent outliers, perceiving apathy to be the norm of the nominated. Yet, the recent past statistically narrates a different tale: the nominated members of the Rajya Sabha are crucial to its proceedings.
While I have primarily utilized quantitative data to chart the presence of nominated Members of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, it would be fruitful to supplement this analysis with a qualitative look at the kind of debates they attend (or skip) and the nature of questions they ask. Unique insights or political biases would become more apparent through such an analysis and would help us have a better understanding of the impact generated by the nominated members. Ultimately, instead of discounting an entire subset of our MPs, this column hopes to be a step in the direction of making apparent their participation. This is crucial to both applauding their insights and holding them accountable to their actions.
- “TCPD Rajya Sabha dataset (TCPD-RSD), 1952 – 2022”., Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University.
- “Explained: Why does Rajya Sabha have ‘nominated’ MPs, and who gets nominated?” The Indian Express.
- Experience over Education: Has the Educational Attainment of IAS Officers changed since the 1960s?
- “Member of Parliament Tracker-PRS Legislative Research” https://prsindia.org/mptrack
- “Rajya Sabha, National Portal of India” https://www.india.gov.in/my-government/indian-parliament/rajya-sabha
- “The Constitution of India, https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/COI.pdf
I thank Ananay Agarwal, Research Lead at Trivedi Centre for Political Data, for his invaluable insights in conceptualizing this article.
Rudransh was a winter intern with TCPD in 2022-23. He is an undergraduate student at Ashoka University majoring in Economics with a minor in Computer Science. He has a keen interest in the politics of the nation and understanding how data-driven decisions refine and inform decisions in different spheres of life like policy making.
This article belongs to the author(s) and is independent of the views of the Centre.