Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learnt to have told senior BJP colleagues that party MPs who have conflict of interest should avoid becoming members of parliamentary committees. Sources said that the Prime Minister raised the issue with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu on the sidelines of the BJP National Executive meeting in Bengaluru on Saturday.
Mr. Modi’s intervention comes against the backdrop of India’s commitment to increase the size of pictorial warnings on cigarette and bidi packets running into trouble after the subordinate legislation panel set up to look into the issue shot down the proposal, saying tobacco use does not cause cancer. Dilip Gandhi, BJP MP and head of the panel, said tobacco consumers could live more than 100 years.
Tobacco lobby exercising power: Cong.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s reported instructions to Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda to ensure larger pictorial warnings on cigarette packets, the Congress said here on Saturday that it was just another “jumla” and the previous Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had lost his job because of his opposition to the tobacco lobby.
Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar told presspersons on Saturday, “Harsh Vardhan wanted to bring legislation that those below 25 years would not be sold cigarettes and that cigarettes will not be sold in singles.”
This is not the first time that such a “conflict of interest” has arisen. In the 15th Lok Sabha, P.B. Kore (BJP), M.A.M. Ramaswamy (JD-S) and D.R. Meghe (Congress) were members of the Standing Committee on Health, though they were in the management of medical colleges; venture capitalist Rajeev Chandrasekhar, and industrialist Vijay Darda were members of the Finance Committees and Vijay Mallya, owner of Kingfisher Airlines, was on the Standing Committee on Civil Aviation.
The Lok Sabha rules say, “An MP may object to another MP joining a parliamentary committee on grounds that he has personal, pecuniary or direct interest. Till the Speaker’s decision, the MP cannot vote in the committee. If the Speaker decides against the MP, he shall quit as a member of the committee.” The Rajya Sabha rules say, “Before participating in a debate, an MP has to declare any personal or pecuniary interest in a matter under consideration by RS or a committee, even if it is not declared. In case of a division, an MP’s vote can be challenged on the above grounds.