Congress to 'Lose' Chairmanship of Parliamentary Panel on Home Affairs, TMC on Food

The Congress party has already registered its protest, stating that the chairperson of the committee on home affairs has been traditionally picked up from principal opposition party.

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New Delhi: Both Congress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) are set to lose the chairmanship of parliamentary standing committees of which they have been part in the latest rejig of parliamentary panels, according to The Hindu.

While Congress could lose the chairmanship of the standing committee on home affairs, currently headed by Abhishek Manu Singhvi, TMC is expected to be stripped of its role as the party which leader Sudip Bandopadhyay as the chairman of food and consumer affairs.

The paper has reported that Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha Piyush Goyal had recently called up Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge to tell him that his party can only head one parliamentary panel and the chairmanship of the home affairs panel would be given to another opposition party. Goyal is said to have cited Congress’ reduced numbers in the Upper House as a reason; the party’s strength reduced from 34 in March to 31 at present.

Currently, Congress heads three parliamentary panels, including the one on home affairs. The other two are the panel on Information Technology headed by Congress’ Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor and the committee on environment, science and technology by party’s Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh.

Over Congress’ losing the chairmanship of the home affairs committee, Kharge is said to have registered his protest with Goyal. In a letter addressed to Goyal, Kharge reminded that the committee on home affairs has been traditionally headed by the principal opposition party.

While stating that he appreciated the allocation of chairmanship based on numerical strength, he said, “In a democracy, the accommodating understanding or principle of give-and-take goes a long way in ensuring the effective functioning of institutions like the parliament.”

“Traditionally also, the chairpersons of the standing committee on home affairs have been from principal opposition parties,” Kharge said in a letter to Goyal, according to The Hindu.

On the other hand, Congress may continue to hold the chairmanship of the committee on Information Technology headed by Tharoor. However, there has been discussion in the parliamentary circles about whether Congress would allow him to continue as the chairperson of the panel given that he is expected to run for Congress president.

In the case of TMC, it is likely to lose the chairmanship of food and consumer affairs – the sole panel it heads. Citing sources, The Hindu said the BJP is “retaliating” for the way the Trinamool constituted committees in the West Bengal Assembly. The Bengal BJP perceives that it has been treated unfairly in the formation of Assembly committees. According to the ruling Trinamool, BJP has been given the chairmanship of nine Assembly panels. Out of these, Mukul Roy returned to the Trinamool and the others resigned from their posts.

Speaking on the possibility of TMC losing its chairmanship of the food and consumer affairs committee, party MP Bandopadhyay told The Federal, “A few days ago, a Union minister from the BJP called me to allege that the TMC has not given BJP any chairmanship in West Bengal assembly panels. If they want to take away the food committee from us, we are not bothered.”

At present, there are a total of 24 parliamentary standing committees, of which 16 are headed by Lok Sabha members and eight are with the Rajya Sabha. The rejig of a parliamentary panel takes place every year.

Parliamentary standing committees are an important aspect of parliament functioning, where threadbare discussions on upcoming laws are held. Due to a large volume of legislative work, not all Bills are discussed at length on the floor of parliament. It is here standing committees fill the gap by allowing a small cohort of MPs to hold wide-ranging consultations on proposed laws in consultation with experts.

Another reason why they are important is that all the discussions of the standing committees happen behind closed doors, allowing MPs to discuss and debate impassionately without being bound by any party whips and positions. Often, discussions that happen on the floor of the House are live telecast making it important for parties to take political positions.