There are more than 36 vacancies at present in the Standing Committees in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, including the chairmanship of at least three committees, since the expansion of the Narendra Modi cabinet last week.
Among the vacancies is that created by Union labour and environment minister Bhupendra Yadav’s elevation. Yadav was the chairman for the Rajya Sabha-led DRSC for Personnel, Public Grievances, Law & Justice.
The Lok Sabha-led Finance Committee for Public Undertakings is also now without a chairperson since Meenakshi Lekhi who headed the committee is now MoS External Affairs & MoS Culture.
The future of the Data Protection Bill, which was sent for parliamentary scrutiny, is now in a limbo as the joint committee to examine this bill was again chaired by Lekhi and the committee is yet to submit its report. The committee, which was formed in November 2019, had more than 65 meetings and had sought an extension during the last Budget Session.
A total of 158 hours and 45 minutes have so far gone into the discussion, resulting in 89 amendments to the original bill. Of these, 86 amendments are in 46 clauses and two in the schedule, while one more clause has been added. A new chairman has to be appointed for this committee. Interestingly, four members from this committee, including Bhupender Yadav, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, have become central ministers.
Rail Minister Vaishnaw was also a member in the committee for environment apart from Joint Committee for Data Protection. Yadav, apart from being chairman of the Law Committee, was also in the Data Protection Committee and Home Committee. Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia was in the Committee for Education as well as External Affairs.
First-time ministers Nisith Pramanik, Shantanu Thakur, Dr Subash Sarkar, John Barla, Pratima Bhowmik, Darshana Jardosh, Pankaj Chaudhary, SP Singh Baghel and Ajay Kumar — all have been members of some standing committee and thus these posts now remain vacant.
Sources in the government say since these committees are now two years old, there is a possibility that the government may decide to reconstitute them totally and form the committees afresh.
Sources also say that outgoing law minister and Patna Lok Sabha MP Ravi Shankar Prasad is likely to be appointed as chairman of a standing committee and so would be Prakash Javadekar. The government would like to use their wide experience in the committees where BJP has majority numbers but are often given a strong fight and argument by members of the opposition.