New Delhi: As the stage is set for the reconstituted Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to take up the controversial AgustaWestland chopper deal, the BJP has replaced its senior members like S.S. Ahluwalia and Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ members on the key parliamentary panel with vocal critics of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Congress will be in minority in the 22-member panel (15 from Lok Sabha, 7 from Rajys Sabha) whose composition is decided by respective strength of the parties in both houses of parliament. It has only four members including chairman K.V. Thomas while BJP will have nine members.
NDA constituents Akali Dal and Shiv Sena have one member while lone Nagaland MP Neiphiu Rio, whose Nagaland Peoples Front is also part of NDA, is a member too. A nominated member from the Anglo-Indian community has also been included in the committee for 2016-17.
There are two members from Trinamool Congress, and one each from the Biju Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and AIADMK.
Besides Thomas, Lok Sabha MP from Kerala’s Kochi, other Congress members are Shantaram Naik, Satyavrat Chaturvedi and Bhubaneshwar Kalita – all from the Rajya Sabha.
In the reconstituted PAC, which took over with effect from May 1, 2016, the BJP has has replaced Ahluwalia, the MP from Darjeeling, and Pokhriyal, the MP from Hardwar and a former Uttarkhand chief minister, ostensibly for political considerations as elections are due in the hill state in early 2017.
A BJP source, however, denied any specific reason for replacing Ahluwalia saying “he continues to be a key member of our party in parliament”.
Among the BJP members retained in the panel are vocal members Kirit Somaiya and Anurag Thakur besides Janardan Singh Sigriwal, Abhishek Singh, Nishikant Dubey and Vijay Goel (Rajya Sabha).
Two other BJP members in the panel from Lok Sabha are Shivkumar Chanabasappa Udasi and Riti Pathak, while from the upper house, Ajay Sancheti replaces Anil Madhav Dave, whose tenure ends on May 13.
Shiv Sena has retained Gajanan Kirtikar, the MP from Mumbai North West, who is also known as a staunch Congress critic.
Among the surprise inclusion in the panel is Anglo-Indian nominated member Richard Hay.
In the ongoing parliament session, Hay, who has a leaning towards the BJP, created a flutter in the Lok Sabha when he alleged that deteriorating law and order situation in Kerala is almost turning the state as “Devil’s own country”.
From among five members from Rajya Sabha, Naresh Agrawal of Samajwadi Party is a new entrant to the panel, with his entry made possible by his party’s strength in the upper house has increasing to 15.
Other members are Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (both Trinamool), Prem Singh Chandumajra (Akali Dal), Bhartuhari Mahtab (BJD) and P. Venugopal (AIADMK).