Why BJD took u-turn on RTI amendment bill

Bhubaneswar: Despite strong opposition by its MPs in both the Houses of the Parliament, questions are being raised on what conditions Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik extended support to the Centre on the contentious RTI amendment bill.

The BJD MPs, during discussion in Parliament, opposed the bill which seeks to reduce the tenure of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (IC) and give central government the control over their salary & compensation. However, the BJD members voted for it when a voting was conducted on the bill.

As per reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called up the Odisha CM, Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao and Andhra Pradesh CM Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy seeking support for the bill in the Rajya Sabha.

While the Congress lashed out at the BJD-led government, BJP and BJD appeared to be in a defensive mood.

“Chief Minister is extending supporting to PM Modi. If Biju babu(Biju Patnaik) was alive today he wouldn’t have done that,” said Congress leader and Bolangir MLA Narasingha Mishra.

Defending the decision of seeking support, Leader of Opposition Pradipta Naik said, “The bill would have been passed even without BJD’s support. It is good if it is passed with the agreement of everyone. This doesn’t mean we are planning for any sort of alliance.”

BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb said, “This is not the first time that such a support was extended to the Centre. On multiple occasions, BJP had sought support and we have granted it.”

“The State government has submitted itself before the Centre so that the latter doesn’t launch any investigation against them and also for financial gains,” political expert Rabi Das said.

Meanwhile, former information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu has said that the chief ministers of Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh should explain why they support the RTI amendment bill which, according to him, “destroys the independence of information commissioners” and “encroaches upon the sovereign rights of states”.

In an open letter, Acharyulu said all the three — Naveen Patnaik, K Chandrashekar Rao and Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy –are eminent personalities who have sacrificed a lot in taking up people’s issues, strived for the interests of their region, and also the rights and sovereign powers of the states under the Constitution.

The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the contentious Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, amid uproar among the Opposition, which said the changes diluted the crucial transparency law.

The bill, which now awaits President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent, will grant greater powers to the Centre in deciding the terms of the chief information commissioners (CICs) and information commissioners (ICs) at both the central and state levels.

(With Agency inputs)