Assam bid for upper house

Guwahati, Dec. 11 : Assam is on its way to having a bicameral legislature. It is likely to have a legislative council or upper house by next year.

Announcing this here today, parliamentary affairs minister Bharat Chandra Narah said he had already sent a cabinet memorandum to the chief minister’s office.

“Once the state cabinet approves this, we will send it to Parliament for approval. Parliament will have its next session in February,” he said, adding that it might take some time as the state was heading for elections next year.

Narah had moved a resolution during the July session of the Assembly this year to create a legislative council in the state. He also recommended to the Union government that Parliament be moved to formulate laws to this effect under the provisions of Article 169 of the Constitution.

Legislators cutting across party lines had supported the resolution, which was passed by two-thirds majority.

Narah today said the basic idea behind the creation of an Upper house was to offer representation to small ethnic groups, which were not represented in the Assembly.

“It is our responsibility to give equal representation to all the indigenous communities of the state,” he said.

The minister said the upper house could not be more than one-third of the total size of an Assembly. As the total strength of the Assam Assembly is 126, the proposed upper house will have 42 members.

The role of the proposed council is likely to be primarily consultative with limited legislative powers. The expenditure of the council has to be borne by the state government.

“It is nothing new as setting up of an upper house has been one of the important points of the Congress Lok Sabha election manifesto in 2004 as well as in 2009,” Narah said, adding that Assam had an upper house from 1931 to 1938, which was abolished after Independence.

Various sections, including political parties, have been demanding a two-tier legislature in the state for long, considering the aspirations of diverse ethnic groups.

The state Assembly had adopted a similar resolution in 2005 but the Centre returned the proposal seeking more details, Narah said.