NEW DELHI: Days after threatening to replace senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor as the chairman of the standing committee of Information Technology (IT), the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) now plans to use its numbers in the parliamentary panel to corner the former union minister over the Facebook issue.
The Committee has reportedly summoned Facebook representatives on 2 September following allegations that the social media giant refused to take down hateful content by BJP members, fearing harm to its commercial interests in India.
Members of the BJP said they have been reaching out to members of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and also those from like-minded parties on the issue.
“We are going to ask some tough questions to Shashi Tharoor, he will have to explain how did he announce without consulting other members to invite officials of Facebook before the parliamentary committee. There are set rules and procedures that need to be followed. He is the chief of the standing committee and we will seek answers from him,” said a senior leader of BJP who is part of the parliamentary committee.
With 16 of 30 members of the panel from BJP, the ruling party is confident about a favourable outcome.
The Congress has four members in the panel and the Trinamool Congress has two. The Left parties, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) and the Shiv Sena have one each.
“This is not the first time when Facebook or social media has come under the scanner of the parliamentary committee…The is if these are social media platforms then everyone should have equal opportunity to put their views across. If these platforms want to edit the content then they are not social media platforms but they should be treated as any other media house,” said another BJP leader.
BJP members are also reaching out to YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) to add to the pressure on Tharoor.
“…This committee cannot become to push the agenda of Congress,” said the first BJP leader quoted above.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Tuesday asked chairmen of all parliamentary committees to ensure that rules are strictly adhered to while holding committee meetings.
“It seems that only BJP is opposed to raising the Facebook issue and that too is limited to one or two of its members. We feel there are enough safeguards and the chairman is well within his rights in what he has done. Also remember that the summons to call for representation is not sent by the chairman but by the secretary general,” a senior Opposition member from the committee said requesting anonymity.
“As far as numbers are concerned they have an edge but parliamentary panels are non-partisan. Even if they force voting on picking of an issue, the final decision will rest with the Speaker,” the member said.
The panel will also discuss the suspension of telecom services and internet in Jammu & Kashmir, and Delhi during the riots in March. This too has come under fire from BJP, with its senior leader and panel member Nishikant Dubey raising concerns on how some of the issues overlap with national security.
“Under Direction 55 of Speaker and Rule 270 of Business and Conduct of Loksabha, on the aspect of imposing ban on 59 Chinese Apps including Tik Tok, @ShashiTharoorji, we can’t discuss knowing well that this aspect is entirely connected with a wider canvas of ‘National Security’,” Dubey had tweeted late on Tuesday. “On the aspect of 4G internet not being available in Jammu & Kashmir inspite of the fact that this matter was before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and thus, sub-judice,” he added.