By Siddharth Zarabi
The Congress is adding some serious muscle to the Standing Committee on Finance - the Parliamentary Panel where several of its proposed important economic legislation have and are currently being debated. And the big surprise is that of Rahul Gandhi being nominated to a panel that is chaired by a formidable Opposition leader, setting the stage for some interesting debates in the months ahead.
Nearly one-third of the Standing Committee of Finance has been reconstituted, as is the usual practice every year. The panel will now see Congress General Secretary and Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi debate and cross swords on legislation with counterparts in the 32-member panel chaired by former Finance Minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha. Gandhi was earlier on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD.
Adding to the Congress firepower is the young Deepender Singh Hooda and the impressively vocal Sanjay Nirupam. Their firepower is going to be matched by the BJP's youth brigade - four-time panel member Nishikant Dubey along with the newly-inducted Anurag Singh Thakur, among others. The Samajwadi party has sent Dharmendra Yadav to the forum, while the Trinamool Congress has deployed Suvendu Adhikari. They will join the likes of Left leader Gurudas Dasgupta and the BJD's Bhartruhari Mahtab, who are existing members of the panel. The debates will be sharper with the presence of independent Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar who also has been nominated to the panel.
Observers feel that the Standing Committee on Finance has emerged as a crucial forum for shaping economic legislation and the Congress move is aimed at strengthening the government's hands. The current Parliament has seen nearly a dozen crucial economic legislations pass through the portals of the panel. These include the Companies Bill, which saw the panel recommend mandatory spending on corporate social responsibility, even as it rejected the 49 percent foreign equity proposal for insurance and pension and the Bill for the Unique Identity project.
In fact, the complete rejection of the UIDAI Bill was cause of much anguish in Congress circles earlier this year. And given that the Constitution Amendment Bill for a Goods and Services Tax (GST) as well as the Banking Laws Amendment Bill are still before the panel, the Congress may well need all the firepower at its disposal to ensure early approval for its economic legislation proposals.