- After two and a half years, BJP will make appointments to key statutory commissions.
- Commissions on SCs, STs & Backward Classes were earlier headed by UPA nominees.
NEW DELHI: After a two and half year wait since winning a big majority in the Lok Sabha, BJP is poised to make appointments to key statutory commissions that were helmed by UPA nominees.
National commissions for scheduled castes, backward classes and scheduled tribes have bid adieu to chairpersons whose terms expired recently. The heads of the panels — P L Punia, V Eswaraiah, Rameshwar Oraon — were appointed by the previous UPA government. While Punia is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha, Oraon is a former Lok Sabha member.
Besides these three panels, the chairmanship of the National Commission for Minorities will also change hands in early March 2017.
The end of these tenures comes as a relief for the saffron establishment which had to put up with UPA nominees during testing episodes such as the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula or the whipping of four Dalits by cow vigilantes in Gujarat.
Dealing with the sensitive mandate of welfare of Dalits, tribals and OBCs, the panels can be a source of discomfort for the establishment with their differing views. Governments can see political viewpoints in the way the commissions act but the panels are intended to be watchdogs and represent interests of specific communities.
For all its frustration, the Centre has had to bide its time though going with the usual trend of appointments by various governments, BJP too may plump for “loyalists” rather than appoint neutral experts to these positions.
With its handpicked nominees in the saddle, BJP would feel its flanks covered during controversies related to Dalit atrocities, or even on recommendations relating to OBC issues, such as inclusion for reservations.
The Modi government had on many occasions seen Punia and Eswaraiah as provocative or diverging from the stated objectives of the government, but chose not to touch them.
As BJP officials acknowledged from time to time, there was anger against Punia right from the start of the Modi regime as the former IAS officerturned-politician was also a spokesperson for Congress and was routinely on television, criticizing the Centre.
His “activism” as the NCSC chief during controversies like the suicide of Rohith Vemula or burning of a Dalit family in Faridabad or flogging of Dalits in Gujarat, rattled the ruling camp and BJP spokespersons repeatedly accused him of “partisanship”.
However, all through, the government — which sacked UPA’s governors without much thought — chose to bear Punia, apprehending that sacking the chief of a commission with constitutional status could invite legal trouble.
There is a precedent here. Even at the peak of its “detoxification drive” after Manmohan Singh assumed office as PM in 2004, Congress had let BJP’s Suraj Bhan complete around two and a half years of his remaining term.:Courtesy:TimesofIndia.