The Parliamentary rules and procedures may make it difficult for the BJP to replace the expelled party leader Jaswant Singh as chairman of the prestigious parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, unless Mr. Singh was to oblige by resigning from that position.
The PAC was constituted as the 15th Lok Sabha’s second session concluded and his chairmanship has been notified by the Speaker. Moreover, PAC members are elected by the entire House after major parties, in accordance with their numerical strength in the House, nominate their representatives.
The Lok Sabha secretariat Rule 258 (2) states that the Speaker may replace the chairman if for some reason he or she is unable to act in that capacity. Mr. Singh’s name has already been notified as chairman for one year after BJP Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj let Speaker Meira Kumar know that he was the party’s choice.
By convention, the PAC chairmanship goes to the main Opposition party and in keeping with the tradition the Congress had let the Speaker know that it would have no objection to the position going to the BJP’s nominee. The party leaders indicated that either the BJP would have to persuade Mr. Singh to resign or it would have to ask the Speaker to cancel his appointment and give the position to one of two other BJP nominees -- Yashwant Sinha and Gopinath Munde.
“But the Speaker may not want to act in a whimsical way. The BJP had recommended Mr. Singh’s name and she notified the committee members and the chairman. She may not want to reopen the matter simply to accommodate the BJP,” said a Lok Sabha secretariat official. The rule clearly states that the Speaker may replace him if the chairman is “not able to act [as chairman].”
Separately, Sharad Yadav, president of the Janata Dal (United), a coalition partner of the BJP, said he did not wish to comment on Mr. Singh’s expulsion, which was the “internal matter” of the party. This issue, he declared, was not as important as the drought facing the country. In any case, the BJP managed its own affairs and its partners like the JD (U) managed theirs.
However, he came out strongly against Gujarat’s ban of Mr. Singh’s book on Jinnah. “Even at the time when India was divided into many small kingdoms, people wrote learned treatises on all kinds of subjects that went against religious beliefs. Books were not proscribed, and to do so in this age, he said, was totally wrong.
The former BJP leader, K.N. Govindacharya, felt the expulsion was more to do with some “selfish” leaders in the party than either Jinnah or Sardar Patel or views expressed on them by Mr. Singh. He was also critical of the procedure, or rather the lack of it, adopted by the party to expel him. A committee could have been set up to read the book; it could have given its views, Mr. Singh could have been asked to explain; and then action could have been taken.
Mr. Govindacharya also pointed out that when BJP leader Arun Shourie did not want to come to the Rajya Sabha as a BJP member but as an independent, he had told the party that he wanted to continue to write. At that time, Mr. Govindacharya said, Mr. Shourie was told he would be free to write and express his views despite fighting on a BJP ticket.