Congress president Sonia Gandhi formed a five-member panel on Wednesday to examine all upcoming bills in Parliament, a move that follows the party’s confrontation with the NDA government over proposed legislation such as goods and services tax, and labour law reforms.
Former finance minister P Chidambaram, who will head the panel of party parliamentarians, has been asked to review all bills and coordinate with Congress members in parliamentary committees.
“This is the first, structured approached of the Congress to take a closer look at the NDA government’s bills, which are often been opposed by the Congress. We will send our reports to the Congress president, and vice-president Rahul Gandhi,” a panel member said.
The committee includes Anand Sharma, who is the deputy leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, former Union ministers KV Thomas and Jairam Ramesh, and former Youth Congress president Rajeev Satav.
The panel, set up in the middle of the monsoon session in Parliament, will coach party members in different parliamentary standing committees — in which bills are routinely reviewed — to help them take a stand on the bill.
Also, it will help MPs participating in parliamentary debates prepare with the pros and cons of a legislation.
The CPI(M) maintains a dedicated set-up to examine bills and policies of the government. Backed by research conducted by its internal team, the panel is helping the leftist party counter the NDA governments’ bills just as it helped oppose the Indo-US nuclear agreement during the first UPA government.
In the Congress’s arrangement, Chidambaram will play a major role in formulating the party’s strategy in Parliament.
The Congress will oppose the Campa bill in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday when it comes for voting. “The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) Bill, is opposed to the interest of tribals,” party leader Jairam Ramesh said.
The bill doesn’t empower forest-dwellers, the tribals and the gram sabhas, he alleged. “If this bill is passed as it is, provisions in the Forest Rights Act, 2006, will not be implemented because in the current form the bill does not have provisions to implement the law,” he said.
“The bill allows states to get the money, but they will use this money to crush the tribals.”
The Congress maintains that funds should be used for empowerment of forest-dwellers, and gram sabhas’ approval is a must before using the money.