New Delhi: The BJP’s tactical understanding with fence sitters in Rajya Sabha and the relative importance of different parliamentary standing committees have dominated the composition of these panels, with the ruling party chairing most of the significant ones.
The panels on Finance and External Affairs, which were headed by Congress leaders in the previous Lok Sabha and had taken on the government, now have senior BJP leaders at the helm. The main opposition party is now heading only one important standing committee on Home Affairs.
Senior Congress leaders Veerappa Moily and Shashi Tharoor headed the panel on finance and external affairs respectively in the previous Lok Sabha when they had brought the government under scanner on the issue of demonetisation and Doklam standoff between India and China.
The panels headed by them also had summoned top officials – the then RBI governor Raghuram Rajan and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to brief them on these two issues.
Taking a jibe at the Modi government, Shashi Tharoor said it has decided to end the tradition of opposition party chairing the parliamentary panel on external affairs and ‘now a BJP MP will hold it accountable’. “One more blow to our soft power, image and international reputation as a mature democracy,” the Congress leader said.
In total, there are 24 Department-Related Standing Committees of Parliament, out of which 16 are from Lok Sabha and eight from Rajya Sabha.
Each committee consists of 31 members including 21 MPs from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha. The chairman of the panel is also nominated from these members.
Out of the eight Rajya Sabha standing committees, BJP and its allies earlier headed four, but now the ruling party is heading only three. And two are with fence sitters YSRCP and TRS.
In place of BJP’s allies SAD and JD(U), now YSRCP and TRS have been given chairmanship of the parliamentary committee on Commerce and Industry respectively.
Though both YSRCP and TRS are not part of the ruling BJP-led NDA alliance, they have at times on crucial bills extended their support to the government in the upper house, where it lacks majority.
The remaining three panels are with opposition parties. The Congress continues to head two panels including the all important one on Ministry of Home Affairs and a Samajwadi Party member is the leader of one committee.
The panel on Transport, Tourism and Culture, which was headed by Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’ Brien previously and had strongly objected to the government’s move to disinvest national carrier Air India, is now chaired by a BJP MP.
In Lok Sabha, the BJP continues to head 10 parliamentary panels while one committee each are headed by the Congress, TMC, DMK, JD(U), Shiv Sena and the BJD.