Manmohan Singh stays out of standing panels, Rahul Gandhi shifts to defence


Hindustan Times
New Delhi, Sep 14: Among the key changes in the recently-announced Parliamentary panels, in which Congress lost the chairmanship of crucial finance and external affairs committees, is former PM Manmohan Singh opting out and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi shifting to defence from external affairs panel.
Former PM and renowned economist Manmohan Singh, who was a member of the finance panel in the previous Lok Sabha, has opted out of any standing committee post, a Congress leader said. 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 to a panel of his choice.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has 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 BJP’s Jayant Sinha will head the all-important finance panel, PP Chaudhary has replaced former diplomat Shashi Tharoor as the chairman of the panel on external affairs. Radha Mohan Singh will chair the railways committee and Jual Oram will head the defence panel.
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 their respective ministries 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 bagged the chairman’s post in 13 out of 24 House panels. The Congress has been reduced to just three from the four it held in the last Lok Sabha, despite its marginally improved tally in the 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 House panel. Other members include Swapan Dasgupta (independent), Jaya Bachchan (SP), Misa Bharti (RJD), Sharad Pawar (NCP) and Kapil Sibal (Congress). Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari too, is in this panel.
The finance panel has heavyweights such as BJD’s Pinaki Mishra, Trinamool’s Saugata Roy and Congress’ Manish Tewari, Digvijaya Singh and Ambika Soni.
NC leader Farooq Abdullah is in the railways panel while Congress’ 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.
TMC floor leader Derek O’Brien, who earlier headed the panel on transport, tourism and culture, has been denied any panel. A section of the Trinamool is upset as it didn’t get any chairman’s post in panels that come under Rajya Sabha. It’s Lok Sabha floor leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, however, has been made the chairman of food and consumers affairs panel that comes under the Lok Sabha quota.
A senior official added that, “Trinamool had officially communicated to the secretariat that since the party has a combined strength of 35 MPs in both Houses, they prefer to have a chairman’s post in a Lok Sabha Committee.” TRS leader K Kesava Rao, YSRCP lesder Vijayasai reddy, Rajiv Ranjan Singh of JDU and Shiv Sena’s Prataprao Jadhav will head panels. DMK’s Kanimozhi has also been made the chairperson of a standing committee.