After government formation, focus on parliamentary committees

  • It is expected that the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) may hold the chairmanship of key parliamentary panels of home, finance, IT, defence, and external affairs to maintain policy continuity and quick rollout of reforms initiatives, experts said.

Subhash Narayan, Manas Pimpalkhare, Rituraj Baruah
Published12 Jun 2024, 06:10 AM IST
With the opposition increasing its tally in the 18th Lok Sabha, they are also expected to helm more panels than in the previous Lok Sabha.
With the opposition increasing its tally in the 18th Lok Sabha, they are also expected to helm more panels than in the previous Lok Sabha.(HT_PRINT)

New Delhi: After allocating portfolios of the council of ministers, the next big task before the new government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to reconstitute a host of parliamentary committees that form the backbone of the country's law-making process, and provide crucial inputs to the governance machinery.

It is expected that the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) may hold the chairmanship of key parliamentary panels of home, finance, IT, defence, and external affairs to maintain policy continuity and quick rollout of reforms initiatives, experts said. 

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However, with the opposition increasing its tally in this 18th Lok Sabha, they are also expected to helm more panels than in the previous Lok Sabha.

“There are 30 committees and 30 chairmen. And 30 chairmen will have to be divided,” said P.D.T. Achary, a former secretary-general of the Lok Sabha, adding that the bigger chunk of parliamentary committees would be headed by representatives from the ruling NDA. “But here since the opposition strength is very high, this time the opposition will get more chairmanship,” he said.

An official associated with the processes said that constitution of the committees and chairmanship depends on the speaker. “Appointment of the speaker is key for the process. It would have to be seen the speaker is selected from which party,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“With this government being a coalition government, and the opposition getting more seats, the constitution of the panels may very well be different this time around. It depends fully on the speaker (of Lok Sabha) and the chairman (of Rajya Sabha),” the official added.

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“The Lok Sabha speaker will be elected after all 543 members take oath, before the President's address to the lower house," Achary said. “This time around, however, parliamentary committees will be formed after the presentation of the full budget.”

Queries sent to the prime minister's office (PMO) remained unanswered while a BJP spokesperson said that the ministry of parliamentary affairs would be better placed to comment on the matter. Queries emailed to the ministry of parliamentary affairs remained unanswered till press time.

“It has been a longstanding parliamentary tradition that all bills passed must be foolproof and inputs from parliamentary committees are taken into consideration," said Akhilesh Pratap Singh, spokesperson of the Indian National Congress. "In recent times, the Parliament has passed half-baked bills. The BJP neither completed parliamentary debates nor passed bills to parliamentary committees. This is not an indicator of a healthy democracy. We will have to see what happens with the new parliamentary committees, because the BJP has always been selfish. We are hoping for the best.”

Allies in the mix

While the tradition has been to give opposition parties adequate representation in parliamentary committees, this time the reconstituted panels may see significant representation from the NDA's allies. Parties such as Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Janata Dal (United) and others who are key to the NDA's majority in Parliament may bag chairperson positions in some key committees.

"They might have to take into account the coalition partners. They might have to look at their issues, especially state-specific issues. For instance, the needs of Andhra Pradesh may be fulfilled in the upcoming budget after suggestions made by the new parliamentary committee on finance,” said Ravi Ranjan, a Rajya Sabha fellow and a professor of political science at Zakir Husain Delhi College, Delhi University.

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The convention of giving opposition parties the chairmanship of some parliamentary committees may be followed for appointments to panels, but most of the important panels, like that for home, finance and IT may be continued to be helmed by representatives from the ruling alliance.

What and why

Parliamentary committees are reconstituted after every general election because the committees' members necessarily need to be current members of Parliament (MPs). However, department-related standing committees are reconstituted every year, while in other several committees such as joint parliamentary committees, changes are made as and when a member retires or loses his Lok Sabha seat.

These panels draw members from all parties in Parliament, based on each party’s proportional representation in the House.

“The purpose of these parliamentary committees is twofold: keep a check on the affairs of the Parliament, and play an advisory role in lawmaking,” said Ranjan. “This time around, the committees are likely to discuss controversial laws like the Uniform Civil Code and the new farm laws which drew protests.”

“Every ministry has a parliamentary committee, and it can be headed by a member of any party. The only exception is the public accounts committee, which is led by a member of the opposition, as a mandate, to keep the government in check,” added Ranjan.

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There are 24 department-related standing committees that cover under their jurisdiction all the ministries/ departments of the government. Each of these committees has 31 Members: 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha to be nominated by the speaker of the Lok Sabha and the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, respectively.

Then there are other standing committees including the business advisory committee, committee of privileges, house committee etc. These have 15 members each. There are also other ad hoc committees, estimates committee, public accounts committee, committee on public undertaking, and business advisory committee.

 

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First Published:12 Jun 2024, 06:10 AM IST
HomePoliticsPolicyAfter government formation, focus on parliamentary committees

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