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Left to lose key House panels

May 27, 2009 02:55 IST

Not only have they lost 37 precious Lok Sabha seats, the Left parties will lose its rights over important Parliamentary Standing Committees as well.

In the 14th Lok Sabha, the 61-MP strong Left brigade headed four key Standing Committees  -- railways, labour, urban development and transport, tourism and culture. This time, with 24 MPs at its command, the Left brigade might lead just two panels.

Standing Committees are important as all government Bills are routed through these bodies before Parliament gives its final approval. The panels also oversee the functioning of the related ministries and ministers are bound to submit reports on the findings of the Committees.

In the last Lok Sabha, CPI(M) members Basudeb Acharia and Mohammad Salim were the chairpersons of railways, and urban development, respectively. CPI(M) leader in the Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury, headed the transport, tourism and culture panel, while the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour was under S Sudhakar Reddy of the CPI.

Apart from these four key panels, the CPI(M) also headed the Committee on Public Undertakings, Subordinate Legislation and the Committee on papers laid on the table.

Salim and Reddy had to bite the dust and the Left's strength -- a major criteria influencing the chairman's post of key Parliamentary panels  -- has come down drastically. "I don't think we will get these Committees," Acharia told Business Standard.

A section of the ruling coalition may not mind veteran parliamentarian Acharia heading the Railways Committee, but as the railway ministry is now headed by West Bengal's biggest anti-Left force  -- Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee  -- the government may not try to antagonise her by allowing Acharia continue in the chair.

As the strength of the Left remains same in the Rajya Sabha, Yechury has a chance to continue as the chairman of the Transport, Tourism and Culture Standing Committee.

While the rule book says it is the prerogative of the Lok Sabha Speaker to select the chairman of a committee, suggestions from political parties and certain unwritten conventions are followed before allotting the membership or chairmanship of key committees. "The Speaker generally asks the parties to give a list of their nominees for different panels. By and large, that list is followed," said a Lok Sabha official.

According to convention, the chairman of the Railways Committee comes from a partner party of the government just as the Public Accounts Committee  -- the watchdog of the government's expenditure  -- is given to the main Opposition party. The Urban Development panel, too, is generally allotted to an ally.

As the chairman's post is allotted on the basis of the strength of the party in Parliament, the Left will not retain its earlier hold over altogether seven committees.

Saubhadro Chatterji
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