Defying precedence, the ruling BJP has kept chairmanship of most Parliamentary committees that scrutinise key ministries dealing with security affairs, leaving only Home Affairs, headed by party president Amit Shah, to the Opposition.
The Standing Committees were constituted afresh late Friday night.
While senior Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma will chair the committee on Home Affairs in the newly constituted Parliamentary panels, BJP members will head the committees on Finance, Defence and External Affairs.
The Congress, which earlier headed key House committees of Finance and External Affairs, is left with only one.
Panels formed, test for Oppn starts now
In the first session of 17th Lok Sabha, the Opposition had criticised the government for what it called rushing key Bills without proper discussion or scrutiny. The government side had, in return, said that Parliamentary committees would be constituted soon to go through the Bills elaborately. Now that the committees are constituted, the Opposition could get more time to take a deep dive, and the government will not be able to push through the Bills without sending them to House panels. The test for the Opposition will to use this effectively, considering the brute majority of the ruling coalition in Parliament, which is reflected in the constitution of the committees also.
As the Lok Sabha Secretariat updated the details, opposition parties have been given chairmanship of the committees on Science and Technology and Environment, Health, Information Technology, Food and Consumer Affairs, Labour, and Chemicals and Fertilisers.
BJP MP and former Union minister Jayant Sinha will chair the key committee on Finance, former ministers Jual Oram and P P Choudhary will head the panels on Defence and External affairs, respectively.
The usual practice of Opposition leaders heading the committees on External Affairs and Finance has been discontinued.
The Congress has already expressed its disappointment over the move, and party MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted: “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…. Govt 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. One more blow to our soft power, image& international reputation as a mature democracy.”
Tharoor, who headed the panel on External Affairs in 16th Lok Sabha, has now been given chairmanship of Information and Technology panel.
Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Bhupender Yadav will head the committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice; BJP’s Rakesh Singh will chair the House panel on Coal and Steel; Ramesh Bidhuri the Petroleum and Natural Gas panel.
Other BJP members chairing different committees are 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 YSR Congress, a party considered friendly to BJP at the Centre, has been appointed to chair the panel on Commerce, BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab is heading the committee on Labour, ally JD(U)’s Rajiv Ranjan will chair the Energy panel, while Shiv Sena MP Prataprao Jadhav heads the Rural Development committee.
DMK MP M Kanimozhi will chair the committee that scrutinises the Chemicals and Fertiliser Ministry. Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav will chair the panel on Health and Family Welfare.
Chairmanship of Standing Committees on Railways and Agriculture, apparently much sought-after panels, has been given to former ministers and senior BJP leaders Radha Mohan Singh and P C Gaddigoudar, respectively. Rajya Sabha member T G Venkatesh, who joined BJP from the TDP recently, will head the panel on Transport, Tourism and Culture. Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien earlier headed it.
TMC Lok Sabha MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay has been chosen to head the House committee on Food Consumer Affairs and PDS.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who was a member of the committee on External Affairs, has now been moved to the House panel on Defence, which is headed by BJP’s Jual Oram.
Standing committees are allocated by the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman on the government’s recommendation.