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Disaster panel post hint to Singh

New Delhi, July 1: Former Union home secretary and BJP MP R.K. Singh is tipped to be the next vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the de-facto boss of the body chaired by the Prime Minister.

To put Singh in the post, which is an office of profit and usually held by political appointees, the Narendra Modi government might have to amend the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Act, 2006.

The plan has prompted parallels with Sonia Gandhi, who had resigned as MP in 2006 after a controversy over her role as the chairperson of several bodies, including the National Advisory Council (NAC). Later, the UPA government amended the law to include the NAC post in the list of exemptions. Sonia contested bypolls and won again.

The same year, Jaya Bachchan had lost her Rajya Sabha seat because she was also the chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh Film Development Council, which was deemed an office of profit.

Article 102 (1) (A) of the Constitution bars a member of either House of Parliament from holding any office under the Government of India or state government that gives salaries or perks.

The rider is that he or she may not be disqualified if the office is “declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder”.

In the NDMA, Shashidhar Reddy, a Congress MLA from Andhra Pradesh, was vice-chairman till he quit earlier this month.

Reddy was appointed by the Congress-led UPA regime, first as a member and then as vice-chairman. The party-run Andhra government had an amendment passed in the Assembly to the law meant for salaries and pensions of members twice to exempt both positions.

Today, a government source said similar amendments would be needed to appoint Singh, who had joined the BJP soon after retirement and won from Bihar’s Ara, to the NDMA.

“Singh is qualified as he had a stint in this area of work. But amendments will be needed,” the source said. Singh, who had earlier served as joint secretary in charge of disaster management in an earlier stint in the home ministry, was not available for comment.

Singh was seen as a candidate for a ministerial berth in the Modi government but was not included.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the ex-officio chairman of the disaster management body and is said to be personally interested in the restructuring of NDMA. The authority is responsible for framing of policies and guidelines for disaster management in the country.

If the government makes up its mind, Singh may not have to wait for long as the Parliament session is round the corner, commencing next week. The budget session starts on July 7.