Protest in Rajya Sabha over motive to include nominated member

The Opposition on Thursday stopped the government from silently changing the composition of the Joint Parliamentary Committee probing the scam in allocation and pricing of telecom licences and spectrum.

When Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla sought to move a resolution in the Rajya Sabha for filling two JPC vacancies, the AIADMK’s V. Maitreyan raised the red flag and thereafter the Opposition combatively came down against the move.

The resolution sought approval for the appointment of P. Bhattacharya (Congress) and Ashok S. Ganguly (nominated member) to fill the vacancies caused by the retirement of the DMK’s Tiruchi Siva and the resignation of E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan on his induction into the Ministry.

Dr. Maitreyan staked claim to a position on the JPC, saying his party now had more members. The BJP’s Najma Heptulla sought to know if the procedure for appointment was the same as that obtained at the time of constitution of the committee and whether the Opposition: treasury benches ratio was not altered.

The government was stopped in its tracks when the Left joined the protest, warning that it would not like the panel composition changed particularly when the draft report had been finalised and there was a tussle over its adoption, as pointed out by BJP deputy leader Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Mr. Shukla’s explanation that the objective was to give representation to one of the 10 nominated members cut no ice with the opposition members, who shot back that they were not against his appointment but were questioning the government’s intention.

Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said the Congress was well within its rights to appoint a party member to fill the vacancy caused by Mr. Natchiappan’s resignation but to come up with a new formula to replace the DMK nominee was not in good taste as it amounted to altering the composition of the committee.

Mr. Jaitley proposed that the government defer the matter for further consultation and arrive at consensus. But Mr. Shukla went ahead and pressed his resolution but the Opposition vociferously negated it, calling for a division with secret ballot. Senior Congress members rushed to Mr. Shukla who, apparently heeding their advice, conceded the demand for putting off the resolution for further consultation.

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