Congress eyeing positions on more House panels

The Economic Times, July 14, 2014

The turf war in Parliament between BJP and Congress is not restricted to the Leader of the Opposition post.

The two parties have begun a standing committee by standing committee tug-of-war. Though the government had thought that their superior numbers and Congress’ greatly diminished tally would give them an easy time of distributing parliamentary spoils, ministers dealing with these matters were in for a surprise.

“At a recently held meeting, Congress representatives made it clear that they wanted their combined strength in both Houses to be considered while dividing the number of chairmanships of committees,” said a source present at the meeting. “This was very clearly a bargaining counter, since it is not possible,” he said.

Congress, he added, was told very clearly that they were out of the reckoning for the post of deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, a post given to someone from the opposition most of the time.

In all likelihood, it will be offered to AIADMK or even the Biju Janata Dal. “If Congress had not insisted on LOP, they could have got the deputy Speaker’s position. In any case, when that matter reached a stalemate, this new gambit was thrown at us,” said a senior minister.

Congress, he added, was interested in netting two chairmanships out of the three major standing committees, that of Public Accounts, Estimates and Public Sector Undertakings. “As of now, they will be given the chairpersonship of the PAC, but nothing else,” he added.

The chairmanship of these committees is important not just because of benefits attached to it and office space in Parliament but because one can question government officers and decisions in an informed way. “We all remember what happened when the PAC took up CAG’s report on the 2G allocation,” added a senior Congressman.

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