NEW DELHI: The government may deny the Congress chairmanship of the standing committees of finance and external affairs it held in the last Lok Sabha when its strength was lower than the current strength of 52. There are indications that the posts may be given to BJP by arguing that its strength has gone up from 283 to 303.
The government is learnt to have conveyed to the Congress that it can retain the chairmanship of the Rajya Sabha-attached Standing Committee of Home Affairs. According to a source, the Congress leadership is likely to make deputy House leader Anand Sharma head of the panel in place of P Chidambaram, currently in judicial custody.
The parliamentary affairs ministry, amid finalising department-related standing committees attached to both Houses of Parliament, has conveyed the decisions to the Congress leadership, a source said. Congress had earlier communicated its interest in retaining the chairmanships of the two Lok Sabhaattached panels. Senior Congress leaders Veerappa Moily and Shashi Tharoor, respectively, had chaired finance and external affairs committees in the last Lok Sabha. Congress is likely to get the chairmanship of a relatively lighter panel attached to LS this time.
The last Standing Committee on Finance witnessed a BJP-Congress showdown over demonetisation and BJP MPs moved a dissent note to block chairman Moily’s draft report, thwarting the final report. The Congress loss of chairmanship of the panel coincides with fall in GDP numbers and slowdown of economy. In the previous House, the Tharoor-led panel on external affairs had held delicate discussions on the Dokalam stand-off too.
When ET asked Congress Lok Sabha floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury about the developments, he said: “Minister of parliamentary affairs Pralhad Joshi has formally conveyed to the Congress that it will not be given the chairmanship of standing committees of finance or external affairs. He has conveyed this in response to my letter, asking the reasons for the unusual delay in announcing the standing committees this time”. Terming the decision as “unfair”, Chowdhury said: “Allotments of standing committees must reflect the spirit of democracy and established conventions. When Congress headed governments, we ensured fair representation to opposition parties in heading standing committees. Even when BJP was a small party in Parliament, the then Congress PM even sent AB Vajpayee to lead the Indian delegation to UN. Unfortunately, this BJP government is indulging in numerical authoritarianism.” Chowdhury is also the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, which, by rule, is given to the main Opposition party.