5 MPs want Shashi Tharoor to continue as IT panel chairman

It includes a BJP MP from Rajya Sabha

September 24, 2022 09:34 pm | Updated September 25, 2022 10:12 am IST - New Delhi

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor speaks in the Lok Sabha on December 3, 2021. Photo: Sansad TV via PTI

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor speaks in the Lok Sabha on December 3, 2021. Photo: Sansad TV via PTI

Five members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Information Technology including a BJP MP from Rajya Sabha wrote a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla advocating in favour of senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor continuing as the panel’s chairperson following reports that in the latest reshuffle he could lose the post.

According to sources, the government has conveyed to the Congress that in place of the IT committee, it will get the chairmanship of the Parliamentary panel of Chemical and Fertilizer. Earlier last week, Lok Sabha floor leader for the Congress Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote a letter to Mr. Birla protesting against the move.

In a letter co-signed by five members – BJP MP Anil Agarwal, CPI(M) MP John Brittas, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram, Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra and DMK MP T. Sumathy – the members have argued that allocation of the committee to a particular chairman decided at the onset of the Lok Sabha as a norm remains in the chair until it is dissolved.

The members termed the decision “unfortunate”. “Withdrawal of the allocation of his role will be immensely unfortunate for the IT committee which believes in the values of strengthening democracy at a time when technology is enmeshed with freedom of expression, rightful criticism, and citizen’s safety and welfare,” the letter said. Many of the committee’s deliberations were at the last stage pending the finalisation of the reports. At least one of the committee reports is with the Speaker’s office, awaiting clearance for tabling in Parliament. The members further argued that the committee has always been proactive in “conducting frequent meetings, resulting in concrete actions”.

Mr. Tharoor, during the committee meetings, has had frequent run-ins with the BJP members Nishikant Dubey and Rajyavardhan Rathore. Some of the meetings even saw a walkout by the BJP members and last-minute voting over the controversial agenda chosen for deliberations.

Meanwhile, Mr. Chowdhury has also shot off another letter to Mr. Birla in this connection saying that it has been conveyed to him in no uncertain terms that the decisions to take away the IT committee will not be reversed. “The government is reducing Parliamentary Committees to a farce if they are unprepared to deal with a committee chair doing his work seriously and professionally, and a committee serving as an independent voice expressing views that may not always be to the taste of the government of the day,” Mr. Chowdhury wrote.

He has further argued that traditionally the principal Opposition party holds the chairmanship of at least one of the “substantive” committees like Home Affairs, External Affairs, Defence or Finance. “When the Congress had only 44 members in Lok Sabha, we chaired committees covering three of the top four ministries – Home, Finance and External Affairs. Now with 53 MPs, we have none of these,” he added.

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