A fresh round of letters have been exchanged between Opposition Congress and the government regarding the allocation of parliamentary standing committees, but no change has emerged on the ground.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, had written to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anant Kumar on September 28 protesting the Congress’s removal from the chairmanship of the Personnel, Public Grievance and Pensions, Law and Justice.
The Congress believes the government snatched the chairmanship of the committee from the party because the panel under Anand Sharma was deliberating on the sensitive issue of electoral reforms and exploring “different systems of elections” other than the first-past-the-post system that is followed now.
Anant Kumar replied to Azad on October 5 , saying that “as regards, Chairmanship of Committee on Personnel, Public Grievance and Pensions, Law and Justice… the practice evolved over the years since inception of this committee (i.e. during the regime of UPA I and II) of having the Chairmanship with the ruling party, has just been followed during the current allocation also”.
Azad wrote back on October 12, saying “strongly disagree with the justification and am surprised that you have conveniently chosen not to mention the period from 2014 to September 2017 of the BJP-NDA government”.
During this period, he said “the chairmanship of the committee on Personnel, Public Grievance and Pensions, Law and Justice was with the Indian National Congress as per the clear understanding reached between the Government and the Congress when the allocation of the chairmanship of DPSCs was done in 2014”.
“Your contention contradicts this fact and the change made by the Government is a breach of 12-14 understanding with the principal Opposition party,” he wrote.
Azad, in his September 28 letter, had also objected to the Shiromani Akali Dal, an NDA constituent with three MPs, being allocated chairmanship of one committee “whereas many parties like the CPM with 7 members and the BSP with 5 members have not been given chairmanship of any committee”. He argued that this meant that the BJP has indirectly taken chairmanship of a third committee in blatant violation of all norms.
Kumar in his reply on October 5 said SAD has been given the Chairmanship of the committee under the “others” category “wherein smaller parties having strength lower than 4 members are grouped together to have a fair representation in the allocation of chairmanship”.
Azad, however, said in the October 12 letter that the chairmanship going to the Akali Dal under the “others” category was “specious logic”. He wrote: “It is a matter of fact and record that the Akali Dal is a part of the NDA with representation in the union cabinet…. The belated argument of clubbing SAD with smaller parties to defend the blatantly unfair decision, cannot be accepted.”