Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu divests Congress from Parliamentary panel chairmanship

Even as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress have an equal number of members of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House member and Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu relieved Congress of the chairmanship of one of the three parliamentary panels headed by the party. Though the latest development might escalate the differences between the government and Congress, negatively impacting the smooth operation of the Parliament, government representatives have conveyed to Congress that it will be divested from the chairmanship of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.

Both Congress and BJP have 57 members in the Rajya Sabha. Earlier lead by Congress’ Anand Sharma, the standing committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice will now be headed by BJP General Secretary and Rajya Sabha member Bhupendra Yadav. The formal directive on the latest development is expected to be issued in the next couple of days.

Though party’s top leaders have decided to discuss the future course of the matter internally, Congress representatives, terming the decision ‘arbitrary’, has launched a fresh protest against the government representatives.

The committee, earlier held by a Congress representative, was debating electoral reforms, stressing more on proportional representation as compared to first-past-the-post system of elections, mostly in the context of the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. In the UP polls, conducted earlier in the year, the saffron party managed to clinch 39% of vote with 312 seats, while its major opposition Samajwadi Party got 21.8% vote share to win 47 seats and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party 9BSP) could get just 19 seats with 22.2% votes. In a five-page questionnaire, Sharma earlier challenged all aspects of election from state funding, to paid news, to internal democracy in political parties to the tedious process of filing nomination papers.

While the BJP and Congress will now be leading two committees each, the remaining six will be given to Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). While the Congress protested the new arrangement approved by Vice President Naidu, claiming that Sharma should be allowed to continue working on the report on electoral reforms, a BJP functionary said, “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.”

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