NEW DELHI: With the government unwilling to accommodate Congress’ request to let it retain the helmsmanship of the department-related standing committee (DRSC) on home affairs in Rajya Sabha, the party is likely to accept the next best available offer – to lead the DRSC on commerce in the Upper House.
With this, the grand old party will now lead two of the eight DRSCs in the RS. Congress’ Jairam Ramesh already leads the DRSC on science and technology, environment and forests. The House panel on commerce will be added to this kitty and Congress will have to nominate its MP to lead it. At present, the House panel on commerce is headed by YSRCP MP V Vijayasai Reddy.
In the Lok Sabha, Congress is expected to get chairmanship of the DRSC on chemicals and fertilisers in place of the House panel on information technology and communications, of which Shashi Tharoor is currently the chairman.
Aside from the DRSCs, the party will continue to lead the Public Accounts Committee as well as the parliamentary committee on subordinate legislation.
There are a total of 24 department-related parliamentary standing committees which are reconstituted every year. Chairpersons of eight committees are appointed by the RS chairman and 16 DRSCs come under the purview of the LS Speaker. Every panel comprises 21 members drawn from LS and 10 from the RS.
While the Rules of Procedures of both Houses are silent on an established procedure for which political party shall lead a DRSC or another parliamentary committee in Parliament, the distribution of chairmanship between parties has been governed by well-established conventions, accepted by consensus, that at least a few DRSCs – including the now disputed DRSC on home affairs – will be led by the opposition notwithstanding their numbers.
Government sources, however, made it clear that there will be no “re-think” over the proposed rejig of the committees, and that the decision to withdraw Congress’ leadership of the DRSC on home affairs in the RS and IT and communications in Lok Sabha is being done “as per the existing strength of the parties” and in light of Congress’s numbers in RS coming down since 2019.
In 2019, when Congress was asked to helm the DRSC on home affairs, its strength in the RS was 52, a number that has since depleted to 31.