Ranjan Gogoi in external affairs panel, Pawar in defence, Scindia gets HRD in House panel rejig

Hindustan Times, July 23, 2020

Former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, has been made a member of Parliament’s standing committee on external affairs while NCP leader Sharad Pawar has entered another key House panel—defence—in a massive rejig to accommodate 65 MPs of the Rajya Sabha.

Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu also nominated former union minister and BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia in the human resource development panel which will have BJP’s Vinay Sahasrabuddhe as the new chairman. The rejig in the HRD panel comes at a crucial time when the Covid-19 pandemic has altered the traditional education landscape, forced millions of students to go online, deferred key competitive exams and also when the NDA government is set to unveil its new education policy.

The newly-elected Rajya Sabha members have been distributed seats in all 24 department-related standing committees of Parliament on Thursday, days before its monsoon session is set to begin. This round of allotment of panel seats to the MPs also come when the Covid-19 pandemic, India-China border tensions, economic situation, migrant labourers are raging issues of debate in the country.

The Indian Parliament has 24 standing committees of which 8 are headed by Rajya Sabha members while the remaining 16 are led by lawmakers from Lok Sabha. Every member is entitled to be a member of a standing committee.

Seven panels—home affairs, agriculture, external affairs, finance, petroleum, science and technology and industry—got one new member each. And energy panel got the maximum allotment (6), followed by 5 members each in urban development and social justice panels.

Nominated MP Gogoi is the lone new entrant in the foreign affairs panel, Pawar is accompanied by RJD’s Prem Chand Gupta and Congress’ Rajiv Satav in the defence committee which also has Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as its member.

Former Union Coal Minister Shibu Soren, who had stepped down from the Manmohan Singh cabinet after an arrest warrant was issued, is now part of the coal and steel committee. CPI(M)’s Elamaram Kareem has been given the finance panel whose chairmanship was taken away from the Congress last year. Former railway minister and senior Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi is in the home affairs panel.

While all the new MPs (barring minister Ramdas Athawale), have been given berths in different panels, 16 MPs including former prime minister HD Deve Gowda would participate only after taking oath.

Along with Scindia, BJP’s Bhubneswar Kalita, GK Vasan of the Tamil Maanila Congress (M) and ADMK’s Tmabi Durai are in the HRD panel.

Among the prominent BJP MPs, Sudhanshu Trivedi is in the energy panel, Ashok Gasti in social justice and empowerment, Arun Singh is in water resources, Roopa Ganguly in food and consumer affairs and Sanajaoba Leishemba is in the science and technology panel.

Among the prominent Congress leaders, Mallikarjun Kharge is in commerce, Digvijaya Singh in urban development, KC Venugopal is in transport, tourism and culture, Shaktisinh Gohil in Information Technology and Deepender Singh in the law and justice committee.

Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi has got a slot in the commerce panel.

Even as the pending vacancies in the panels are filled up, the industry committee would not be able to meet as its chairman, K Kesava Rao, could not take oath on Wednesday, when 45 of the 61 new members including 36 first timers were administered oath. A senior Rajya Sabha official said, “If a member has not taken oath, he can’t participate in the business of the House and panels are an extension of the House.”

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