Will Harivansh remain Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman after JD(U)-BJP split?

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh.

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Janata Dal (U)-BJP divorce has made Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman and JD(U) MP Harivansh’s future in the post uncertain and has also cast a shadow on the controversial Electricity (Amendment) Bill, that is under consideration of a standing committee on Energy headed by JD(U)‘s National President Rajiv Ranjan Singh aka Lalan Singh.

Neither the JD(U) nor Mr. Harivansh have commented on whether he will continue in the position despite the bitter parting. According to sources in the JD(U), Mr. Harivansh was invited by Mr. Singh for the party meeting in which the call to quit the alliance was taken, but he did not reach Patna. Mr. Harivansh, in private has told many leaders that he is willing to abide by the party diktat.

Journalist turned politician, Mr. Harivansh who also served as media adviser to former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, in 2014 was sent to Rajya Sabha by the JD(U). In August 2018, he was elected as Deputy Chairman. He was re-elected to the post on September 2020 after he returned to the Upper House for a second term.

His tenure of last four-years had many contentious moments including passing the three farm laws in September 2020 amidst pandemonium. Eight Opposition MPs were suspended by Mr. Harivansh who was in chair during the passage of the Bill for creating ruckus. The Opposition contended that Mr. Harivansh did not take the sense of the House and hurried through the Bill even though 18 parties were opposed to it.

Since it is a constitutional position, Mr. Harivansh, can continue in the post even after the split. Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had set the precedent by continuing in the position despite the Left pulling out support from the UPA-1 government.

BJP’s reasons to worry

While JD(U) is anxiously awaiting Mr. Harivansh’s next move, the BJP also has reasons to worry. The fate of controversial Electricity(Amendment) Bill, lies with Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy chaired by JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh Alias Lalan Singh. A number of States, the Opposition parties, trade unions and the Samyukt Kisan Morcha are opposed to the Bill. The Opposition questioned the Bill even at the introduction stage in Lok Sabha.

Mr. Singh told The Hindu that the Committee will examine the Bill. He declined to comment when asked what process the committee will take on the Bill. He added that his party leaving the NDA will have no impact on the functioning of the panel. “The Committee doesn’t function on a party basis. It takes an independent view on the issues and Bills before it. Members will place their views on the Bill and we will examine it threadbare. The Committee will decide who should be called and who should not be,” Mr. Singh added.

“The Opposition has decided. We have to discuss the Bill in detail. This Bill is anti-farmer and takes away the powers of State governments. We will request the Chairman to call all stakeholders, States, trade unions and representatives of farmers to record their views on the Bill,” said Congress MP Chellakumar.

In 2014, when the Electricity Bill was considered by the same panel, BJP’s Kirit Somaiya was the Chairman of it. CPI(M), AIADMK and Congress members had submitted dissent notes against clauses of the Bill. Five State governments, the power distribution company of Maharashtra and the regulatory commissions of 16 States represented before the panel in 2014 along with a number stakeholders representing trade unions, industry associations, consumers’ representatives and various individuals appeared before the panel and presented their views during the examination of the Bill.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2022 10:43:46 am |