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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Manmohan Singh opts out of House panels, Rahul Gandhi shifts to defence

Among the other key changes in the reconstitution of the Parliamentary panels, in which the Congress lost the chairmanship of the crucial finance and external affairs committees, is the shifting of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from external affairs to defence.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2019 00:05 IST
While Manmohan Singh has opted out of the membership of standing committees, Rahul Gandhi has been shifted to defence.
While Manmohan Singh has opted out of the membership of standing committees, Rahul Gandhi has been shifted to defence.
         

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ,serving his sixth term in the Rajya Sabha, has opted out of the membership of parliamentary standing committees that were reconstituted on Friday evening.

Among the other key changes in the reconstitution of the Parliamentary panels, in which the Congress lost the chairmanship of the crucial finance and external affairs committees, is the shifting of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from external affairs to defence. At least two Congress leaders claimed that Singh, a renowned economist, didn’t want to be a part of any panel. He was a member of the finance panel during the term of the previous Lok Sabha. However, a senior Rajya Sabha official said, “Chairman Venkaiah Naidu has kept a slot open for Dr. Singh. Whenever his name is suggested by the Congress, the former PM will be accommodated in a panel of his choice,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been shifted from the parliamentary standing committee on external affairs to that of defence while party president Sonia Gandhi, a lawmaker from Rae Bareli, will, as in the past, stay away from any panel position.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Jayant Sinha will head the all-important finance panel, PP Chaudhary has replaced former diplomat Shashi Tharoor as chairman of the panel on external affairs. Radha Mohan Singh will chair the railways committee and Jual Oram will head the defence panel. All four appointed have previously served as ministers in the previous National Democratic Alliance-led government. These announcements came late Friday evening with the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla reconstituting the much-anticipated department-related standing committees. The role of the standing committees is to review the functioning of the ministries they oversee and submit reports on relevant issues or bills after scrutinising them

The BJP, which has 303 members in the Lok Sabha and 78 in the Upper House, has got the chairman’s post in 13 out of 24 panels. The Congress has been reduced to three from the four it held during the term of the last Lok Sabha, despite its marginally improved tally in Lower House.

Former Union minister P Chidambaram, who headed the home affairs committee in the last Lok Sabha, is now a member of the external affairs panel. Other members include Swapan Dasgupta (independent), Jaya Bachchan (Samajwadi Party), Misa Bharti (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Sharad Pawar (Nationalist Congress Party) and Kapil Sibal (Congress). Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari too, is in this panel.

The finance panel has heavyweights like Biju Janata Dal’s Pinaki Mishra, Trinamool Congress’s Saugata Roy and Congress’s Manish Tewari, Digvijaya Singh and Ambika Soni.

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah is in the railways panel while Congress’s ace legal brain Abhishek Singhvi is in the defence panel. Cricketer turned politician Gautam Gambhir is in the parliamentary standing committee on urban development. Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal has retained a panel chairman’s post even with depleted strength. BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab will head the labour committee.

Trinamool Congress floor leader Derek O’Brien, who earlier headed the panel on transport, tourism and culture, has not got any chairman’s post. Its Lok Sabha floor leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, however, has been made the chairman of the food and consumers affairs panel that comes under the Lok Sabha quota. A senior official said on condition of anonymity: “Trinamool officially communicated to the parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi that since the party had a combined strength of 35 MPs in both Houses, they want to have a chairman’s post in a Lok Sabha Committee. They have also sought to chair an ad-hoc committee.”

Opposition members of the Rajya Sabha chaired four of the eight department-related standing committees under the Upper House’s quota during the last two years ;they will head one more such committee this year. “The Congress retained its quota of chairmanship of two committees in Rajya Sabha. With 49 members in Rajya Sabha in 2013, BJP then chaired two committees and after the latest reconstitution, it will head three committees with 79 members in the House,” said the senior official.

Before constituting the committees, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu held consultations with Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla and minister of parliamentary affairs Pralhad Joshi.

Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader K Kesava Rao, YSR Congress Party leader Vijayasai Reddy, Rajiv Ranjan Singh of Janata Dal (United) and the Shiv Sena’s Prataprao Jadhav will headthe panels. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Kanimozhi has also been made chairperson of a standing committee.