As Sonia Gandhi starts the process of identifying members of the National Advisory Council, constituted on Monday, government officials said the new body was a reincarnation of the May 2004 version to ensure that Gandhi’s holding the post did not attract the office of profit clause.
The government is expected to finalise the members of the council within a week.
There is speculation that two young parliamentarians, including a Maharashtra MP, might also be inducted but without any perks to protect them from the office-of-profit clause.
The first edition of the UPA did not have any MPs. Gandhi quit the 2004 version in March 2006 and sought re-election to Parliament to ensure that the bar on MPs from holding offices of profit did not affect her.
By August 2006, Parliament passed the law to exempt the NAC chairperson’s post along with more than 50 other posts from the disqualification provision. Since the NAC was not a body with any constitutional or statutory backing, the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Act had made a pointed reference to the Cabinet Secretariat office order of March 31, 2004, to exempt the council.
“A new National Advisory Council would have again attracted the provisions of the office-of-profit and would have required to be exempted by Parliament again,” an official said, explaining the decision to link the new NAC to the one created on May 31, 2004.
The new NAC — like its original version — is expected to ensure that the government doesn’t lose sight of the Congress’ mascot, aam aadmi, in drafting its policies.
Besides providing inputs for formulation of policy, the May 2004 order had listed monitoring the progress of implementation of the Common Minimum Programme as its mandate. But UPA-II does not have a CMP.
On Gandhi again becoming NAC chief, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said: “Things that were being remote controlled by her till now will henceforth be under her direct control. Maamla hal ho gaya (the matter stands resolved).”