BJP members charge the government with setting a bad precedent

The government on Thursday overcame resistance from the BJP to appointment of two members of the Rajya Sabha, including a nominated one, to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on 2G spectrum scam against two vacancies.

A motion, moved by the government to appoint Congress member P. Bhattacharya and nominated member Ashok S. Ganguly, was adopted by voice vote in the House amidst vociferous protests by BJP members, who charged the government with setting a “bad precedent.” They said the nominations would disturb the “balanced proportion of representation” on the JPC.

The vacancies were caused by the retirement of Tiruchi Siva (DMK) and the resignation of Congress member E.M.S. Natchiappan, who became a Minister in the Cabinet.

The DMK, however, did not press for the vacancy to be filled in by its party member. Even as the House was frequently adjourned on the issue, the government turned down appeals from mainly the BJP and the CPI(M) for an Opposition member to fill in the vacancy.

The motion was moved last week as well when the Opposition managed to get it stalled for wider consultations by the government with leaders of parties.

Moving the motion amidst protests by Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, BJP leaders Ravi Shankar Prasad, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Najma Heptulla and AIADMK leader V. Maitreyan, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said the government was “re-bringing” it for the consideration of the House and was prepared for “division of votes,” if required.

He said there were 10 members nominated by the President to the House and “this time we are nominating for the panel a member from this block [of nominated members].”

Dangerous implications

Accusing the government of setting a wrong precedent with dangerous implications, Mr. Jaitley said numbers matter. “For the last few months, the panel is not functioning. A parliamentary committee always represents the strength of various parties in the House. It is proportionate; it is never ‘winner takes all.’ Now like a by-election, two casual vacancies have to be filled in a manner keeping the proportionate strength of the government and the Opposition in mind. It can’t be that the government proposes and takes both.”

Mr. Yechury said: “the normal practice is that if a vacancy occurs because of absence of a member from a panel then, then the same political party will fill that vacancy. That is the normal thing. Don’t change that procedure.” While JD(U) member K.C. Tyagi said his party wanted to have a say in the matter, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu said the government wanted to nominate and then dominate the proceedings of the JPC.

Even as Opposition members sought deferment of the motion, Mr. Shukla claimed he had consulted leaders of all parties, including the Leader of the Opposition.

Several BJP members entered the well of the House and raised slogans against the government, prompting the Chair to adjourn the House. When the House re-assembled after lunch, the din continued, leading to adjournment for the day.

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