Vijayawada: The stalemate over the formation and functioning of select committees of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council is all set to worsen in the next few days. The need to set up the committees arose as the Council Chairman referred the two contentious bills related to the shifting of the capital from Amaravati, and repeal of Amaravati Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) for deeper scrutiny.
But, the ruling YSR Congress has almost boycotted it. Following the passage of a bill, meant to abolish the Upper House, the party has refused to recommend its members to the constitution of the two committees.
It’s a strange situation where a ruling party has chosen to boycott Select Committees. Normally, such committees are boycotted by the opposition parties. For instance in 1987, the JPC formed to look into the Bofors scandal was boycotted by all opposition parties. The committee, however, submitted its report after 51 sittings. Here in Andhra Pradesh, the ruling party has boycotted the committees thickening the stalemate, which has already affected the process.
Unlike in the Rajya Sabha, in States, normally ministers, who pilot the bill, become ex-officio chairmen of the committees. Though state legislatures follow parliamentary conventions, in many areas they deviate and take an independent course. One such area is the appointment of Select Committee. In the legislatures of Rajasthan, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Manipur, the rules provide for the minister to be either chairman or ex-officio chairman of the Select Committee.
The Select Committees are appointed, in a way to, to exercise parliamentary control over the executive. Appointing a minister, who is part of the executive, as chairman of the Select Committee is incongruous and goes against the very objective of the parliamentary scrutiny. If one verifies the recent history of appointment of Select Committees in Rajasthan, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and Maharashtra, one could find ministers chairing the meetings of Select Committees.
In Rajya Sabha, the chairman of the committee is chosen from among the members. In case, the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha is also a member, then he would automatically be appointed chairman of the committee, in which ministers are not included.
Now, as the ruling party is not ready to recognize the very existence of the Council, a conflict has arisen in Andhra Pradesh. For the constitution of the select committee, Council Chairman is supposed to write a letter asking them to nominate their members. Following the letter from Chairman MA Sharif, Telugu Desam, BJP and PDF have submitted names of MLCs for the two committees (on two bills). Bent on seeing the abolition of the Council, the ruling party refused to nominate members. According to the media, the YSRC has written a letter to the chairman stating that the party would not recognize the Select Committee as due procedure was not followed in taking the decision to refer the bills to the Select Committee.
According Revenue Minister Pilli Subhash Chandra Bose, also Leader of the House in Council, even to exercise discretionary powers, the chairman ought to follow the due process. To justify his party’s stand, the minister said the chairman had exercised his discretionary powers without taking the House into confidence. It is now clear that the Select Committee will not have the ministers who piloted the bills as the chairmen.
Who can chair the committees?
Will the Chairman set aside the convention in the state legislature and revert back to the parliamentary protocol to appoint a member of the committee as the chairman? It would be interesting to watch the next step the Chairman would take, and the reaction from the ruling party.