In an unprecedented break with Parliamentary principle and tradition, the ruling BJP has kept the chairmanship of most of the parliamentary panels that scrutinise the functioning of key ministries of the government and submit reports on relevant issues or bills after scrutinising them.
It has left to the opposition just the Ministry of Home Affairs, headed by party president Amit Shah.
The files on the appointments were cleared by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Friday, Sep 13. The Lok Sabha Secretariat updated the details of parliament’s standing committees for the newly constituted 17th Lok Sabha late night on Friday night.
BJP leaders have replaced Opposition MPs as the chairperson of the Parliamentary standing committees on finance and external affairs, PTI reported. The two crucial panels were led by Congress MPs in the previous Lok Sabha.
BJP MP Jayant Sinha will be the chairperson of the standing committee on finance, Jual Oram will head the committee on defence and PP Choudhary will lead the external affairs committee. In the 16th Lok Sabha, the finance panel was headed by Congress MP Veerappa Moily and external affairs by Shashi Tharoor.
Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh will head two Rajya Sabha panels: home affairs, and science and technology. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will be a member of the defence panel, according to the statement.
In a reshuffle, Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien was not retained as the chairman of the travel, tourism and culture committee. Trinamool’s Lok Sabha floor leader Sudip Bandopadhyay will be the chairman of the panel on consumer affairs, the statement said.
YSR Congress Party’s V Vijaya Sai Reddy appointed as Chairperson of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce. BJP’s Jual Oram appointed as Chairperson of Committee on Defence, Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and Abhishek Singhvi Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut also appointed as its members. pic.twitter.com/pjHxEsbi7f
— ANI (@ANI) September 13, 2019
The opposition parties have been given the chairmanship of Science and Technology and Environment, Health, Information Technology, Food and Consumer Affairs, Labour and Chemicals &Fertilizers.
Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Bhupender Yadav is heading the committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice. BJP’s Rakesh Singh is chairing the committee on Coal and Steel, Ramesh Bidhuri (Petroleum &Natural Gas), Rama Devi (Social Justice and Empowerment), Satynarayan Jatiya (HRD), K Keshava Rao (Industry) Jagadambika Pal (Urban Development) and Sanjay Jaiswal (Water Resources).
V Vijayasai Reddy of the YSRCP, considered to be friendly to the BJP at the centre, is appointed to chair the panel on Commerce, BJD’s Bhartruhari Mehtab is heading the committee on Labour, ally JD(U) MP Rajiv Ranjan will chair the Energy panel, Shiv Sena MP Prataprao Jadhav heads the Rural Development panel.
DMK MP M Kanimozhi will chair the committee that scrutinises the Chemicals and Fertiliser ministry. Shashi Tharoor who had headed the panel on external affairs committee in the 16th Lok Sabha is now been given the chairmanship of Information Technology panel.
Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav chairs the panel on Health and Family Welfare.
The chairmanship of panels on Railways and Agriculture, apparently much sought after committees, has been given to former ministers and senior BJP leaders Radha Mohan Singh and PC Gaddigoudar. The post for the panel on Transport, Tourism and Culture is gone to Rajya Sabha member TG Venkatesh who has joined the BJP from TDP recently. TMC’s Derek O’Brien was heading it. In the newly constituted panels, TMC’s Lok Sabha MP Sudhip Bandhyopadhyay has been chosen to head the standing committee on Food Consumer Affairs and PDS.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who was a member of the panel on external affairs, has now been moved to the parliamentary panel on defence, which is headed by Jual Oram.
Standing committees are allocated by Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman on the recommendation of the government.
Congress criticises move
With the latest move, the Congress, which has 52 lawmakers in the current Lok Sabha, will be left with just one panel to lead in the Lower House — the panel on information technology. The Congress had chaired two committees in the previous Lok Sabha, when it had 44 members in the Lower House.
The Congress party has already expressed its disappointment over the move.
The Congress’ floor leader, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, said: “We have been informed that we will get the chairmanship of just one panel… I had shot a protest letter to parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi. I told him that functioning of Parliament means there should be some checks and balance. It is also the right of the parties to head the panels.”
Chowdhury said that in the best interest of parliamentary democracy, the Congress must be given its due. “I also reminded him that when we had 44 MPs, we headed two panels and now we are a 52-member team but you want to give us just one panel to head. This is injustice,” said Chowdhury.
Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor, who headed the foreign affairs panel in the last Lok Sabha, hit out at the BJP, calling the decision “one more blow to our soft power, image and international reputation as a mature democracy”. Tharoor said this is the first time the foreign ministry panel was not given to the main Opposition party.
Tharoor also took a jibe at the Modi government, saying a BJP MP will now hold the BJP government accountable instead. “It’s official: Government has decided to end the tradition of the leading Opposition party chairing the External Affairs Committee. Apparently a BJP MP will now hold the BJP Govt accountable instead,” he said in a tweet.
In a tweet on Tuesday, the former Union minister had said in the entire history of Parliamentary Standing Committees, the Committee on External Affairs has always been headed by an Opposition Lok Sabha MP.
“Our tradition is foreign policy bipartisanship: our political differences stop at the nation’s borders. Dismaying,” he had said, tagging a media report that claimed that the government may deny the Congress chairmanship of the standing committees of finance and external affairs it held in the last Lok Sabha.