Congress Loses Leadership Of Panel On Poll Reforms
Venkaiah Naidu’s decision after the party, BJP stand level in terms of numbers in Rajya Sabha
With the Congress and the BJP standing level in terms of numbers in the Rajya Sabha, Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu has divested the Congress of the chairmanship of one of the three parliamentary panels the party was heading.
Both have 57 members each in the Rajya Sabha. The coveted standing committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, will now be headed by BJP General Secretary and Rajya Sabha member Bhupender Yadav instead of Congress leader Anand Sharma. A formal order is expected in next couple of days.
The committee was debating electoral reforms, specifically proportional representation vs first-past-the-post system of elections especially in the context of recent Uttar Pradesh elections. In the 2017 Assembly polls, the BJP got 39% of the vote share but won 312 seats, while the Samajwadi Party with 21.8% votes got 47 seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party with 22.2% got 19 seats.
Mr. Sharma had shot off a five-page questionnaire on all aspects of elections from state funding, to paid news, to internal democracy in political parties to the tedious process of filing nomination papers.
Interestingly, while all the other parties have made submissions on the issue, Mr. Yadav, on behalf of the BJP, had sought additional time thrice. A majority of the opposition parties have advocated a mix of proportional representation and the first-past-the-post electoral system.
There are eight department-related standing committees in the Rajya Sabha. Out of these, at present, the Congress heads three committees, Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice; Science & Technology, Environment & Forests and Home Affairs.
According to sources, as per the new arrangement approved by Mr. Naidu, the BJP and the Congress will lead two committees each. The chairmanship of the remaining four will be given to the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). It is the first time the Akalis would get chairmanship of an RS committee. The Congress protested claiming that Mr. Sharma is still working on the report on electoral reforms and should be allowed to continue. “Why should they get a concession? When they were in power, they did not give chairmanship of Law and Justice committee to the Opposition. They kept it for themselves. They want to keep it with them even when they are out of power,” a BJP functionary said.
The Congress will retain the committee on Home Affairs which is currently headed by P. Chidambaram.
The Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests is the other one that will remain with the Congress.