Hema Malini, Sunny Deol so near yet so far

When Columnist Shobhaa De tweeted “Hema Malini won. Sunny Deol won. Dharmendra has more MPs at home than AAP or JDS or RJD in Parliament”, it immediately became viral.  People were anticipating how the two would sit in Parliament.

However, the “dream girl” would not be there to support her stepson Sunny Deol in his Lok Sabha debut. Reason-all thanks to seating rules, the two members of Parliament would be seated well apart in the Lok Sabha, when the session begins on June 6. Being the first timer, Sunny Deol, famous for his blockbusters like Gadar, Damini, Ghayal, Ghatak, Arjun, and Indian, would have to sit with first-timers who have made it to the lower house. Interestingly, the  17th Lok Sabha has 300 first-time MPs and a record number of women MPs.

The first timers include Sunny Deol, singer Hansraj Hans, cricketer Gautam Gambhir, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, and actor Ravi Kishan. Bengali actress-turned politicians Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan who shared ‘first-day at parliament’ pictures on Twitter have received memes. They have been elected as Trinamool Congress TMC candidates. While Chakraborty is an elected member from the Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal, Jahan is the representative of Basirhat constituency from the same state.  “And its us again. First day at Parliament Nusrat Jahan,” Mimi Chakraborty tweeted tagging Jahan.  But regardless of their popularity or seniority in their past trade, MPs on their debut will all be seated far behind the seasoned parliamentarians, as per the official seating system.

As such Hema Malini, who has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Mathura for the second time, will be seated in the middle benches, while her stepson Sunny Deol, who was elected from Gurdaspur seat in his maiden attempt in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, will be seated among the backbenchers.  Sunny Deol’s “dhai kilo ka haath” had defeated Punjab Congress President, Sunil Jakhar by over 82,000 votes. It was star power and Modi brand that worked in his favour otherwise, Sunil Jhakhar was considered a formidable candidate. Similarly, Sadhavi Pragya will find herself seated far behind Anurag Thakur, who despite being much younger to her has been elected to Parliament for the fourth time. This will be Sadhavi Pragya’s first stint in the Lok Sabha.

In Lok Sabha, each elected Member of Parliament has a designated seat, decided on the basis of a set formula and their seniority in the House. The treasurer benches to the right of the Speaker of the House are reserved for the ruling party or alliance, whereas left benches are allotted to the elected members of the Opposition. Since there are few opposition members this time as about 352 MPs are from NDA and over 300 from BJP alone, the opposition benches would wear a deserted look.

The Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and other senior leaders of the ruling party occupy front rows on the right. The Leader of the Opposition and leaders of the non-ruling parties sit in the first row on the left. However, Congress though principle opposition party would not be given the leader of the opposition status as it has just 52 MPs, three short of the requirement to qualify for that status. During the last election too, the party had got just 44 MPs and was not given the status of leader of the opposition. Last benches are allotted to newcomers unless they are given a cabinet portfolio. If Sunny Deol is inducted as a minister in the Modi cabinet, he might sit in the middle rows but otherwise; he would be a back bencher away from his step mother Hema Malini and would be devoid of her guidance.