Just weeks after Venkaiah Naidu being elected as India’s new Vice President, the Congress is set to lose the chairmanship of a key parliamentary panel, currently in the midst of finalising a report on political funding.
This is being attributed to a fall in the party’s strength in the Rajya Sabha. Quoting sources in the Upper House Secretariat, news agency Press Trust of India reported that Congress MP Anand Sharma, who is heading the standing committee on personnel, law and justice, was set to be replaced by BJP’s Bhupender Yadav.
The Congress is visibly aggrieved by the development as the party’s spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged that whims of a political party were taking precedence over established democratic parliamentary procedure.
“And that is what Congress is objecting to and we shall fight it out,” he told PTI.
Both Congress and BJP currently have 57 MPs in the Rajya Sabha. A report by The Hindu said that a formal order was expected anytime now announcing the removal of Sharma.
The committee headed by Sharma was debating electoral reforms, specifically proportional representation vs first-past-the-post system of elections particularly 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.
The Hindu report further added that 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.
Out of the total eight Rajya Sabha standing committees, the Congress is heading three panels — home affairs, science and technology and a third combined committee on personnel, public grievances, law and justice. Top BJP leaders are believed to have conveyed to the Congress leadership that since the Opposition party’s strength has declined to 57, equivalent to the ruling side is in the Rajya Sabha, it cannot chair three panels in the Upper House.
At present, the panel on law and justice besides finalising a report on political funding is also evaluating recommendations given to replace the first-past-the-post electoral system with proportionate representation. The Congress alleged that the move is being made “as per the whims” of the ruling BJP.
Besides the Congress, the BJP is heading two panels, while one committee each is chaired by the SP, the JD(U) and the TMC. All 24 department-related standing committees are due for restructuring for their new term.