Congress will not lead any of the 4 major House panels

New Delhi: For the first time in recent history, the country’s main opposition party will not lead any of the four major parliamentary standing committees – Home Affairs, Defence, Finance and Foreign Affairs. Instead, the Congress party may head the Parliament’s Commerce, Chemicals and Fertilizers and Environment committees.

The party will continue to lead the Public Accounts Panel.

According to a senior Congress leader on condition of anonymity, the government has already informed the opposition party that the home panel, currently headed by MLA Abhishek Singhvi, will no longer be under the party. On 17 September, HT reported that the Congress party was working to retain the chairmanship of the Home Affairs Panel, which is considered one of the principal House bodies.

When the party was revamped after the 2019 elections, the party lost the chairmanship of the external affairs and finance panel.

In general, the leadership of committees is assigned to parties based on their strength in the houses. Opposition parties include Biju Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) who chair the standing committees. But TMC is set to lose its lone chairman’s seat in the upcoming reshuffle.

A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the opposition was trying to politicize the issue of the House panel. This person said that Congress has not even sent the names of representatives to the Home Affairs and Corporate Affairs committee.

The BJP leader said the opposition raises the issue of committee chairmanship and meetings, but the deliberations and discussions and the actual process of finalizing the report on time should be taken care of.

The Congress leader said that instead of the Home Affairs Committee, the Commerce Panel could be offered to the Congress. The government also plans to take away the chairmanship of the Information Technology (IT) panel from Shashi Tharoor, one of the three candidates for the Congress president’s election.

“Government managers have indicated that the party may get a committee on chemicals and fertilizers instead of an IT panel. We have strongly opposed this move. Now everything depends on Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

Congress floor leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Choudhary, has already questioned the motive behind the move and argued that a similar situation in the Rajya Sabha is being snatched away on the pretext that the Congress has reduced its presence in the Upper House. “There has been no change in the Lok Sabha which raises ominous questions about the real intention behind such a decision. The number of Rajya Sabha members of Congress has come down from 54 to 31 in the last five years.

Traditionally, the main opposition party got the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee and some of the major committees. During the UPA era, Yashwant Sinha headed the Finance Panel for a long time, while the late Sushma Swaraj was the Chairperson of the Home Affairs Panel.

Choudhary claimed that the government’s decision was against the existing conventions. “There is no weak reason for this repeated attempt to downplay the role of the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha. The government must recognize that the principle of deliberation and consultation within the workings of important bodies such as department-related standing committees, as well as conventions that encourage bipartisan cooperation, must be respected.