Anita Joshua

As per convention, the post rightfully belongs to the principal Opposition party

“I wanted to establish the primacy of the autonomy of parliamentary committees”

NEW DELHI: Expelled Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jaswant Singh has resigned as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). He submitted his resignation to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on Monday and it has been accepted with prospective effect from December 31, to enable him to complete three reports he is working on.

Surprise move

Mr. Singh’s decision came as a surprise to all as he had earlier refused to yield to the BJP’s public appeal to him to resign from the post that rightfully belongs to the principal Opposition party as per the convention established in the fourth Lok Sabha.

Asked if his decision to resign was a forerunner to returning to the BJP, Mr. Singh answered in the negative, adding that he had sought to drive home a point by digging his heels in.

“I wanted to establish the primacy of the autonomy of parliamentary committees and that has been done,” he told journalists in Parliament as word broke about his resignation.

Dwelling further on the subject, Mr. Singh said it was not correct for political parties to ask chairpersons of committees to step down. If such demands were entertained they could well start dictating what should go into a parliamentary panel report.

Senior BJP leaders maintained that no fresh attempt had been made to persuade Mr. Singh to give up the PAC chairmanship.

The BJP leadership is of the view that his decision might have been in deference to the convention of the PAC chairmanship being with the main Opposition party.

Mr. Singh’s decision to continue as PAC Chairman despite expulsion from the BJP for praising Pakistan’s founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his book had become a cause of great embarrassment for the party.

It had also resulted in the BJP allies staying away from the first meeting of the PAC that he chaired.

Though the BJP had hoped the Speaker would intervene to get Mr. Singh to relent, the Lok Sabha rules are clear. As per Rule 258(2), the Speaker may replace the chairman if for some reason he or she is unable to act in that capacity.