West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (File image)
The West Bengal government has decided to set up a Legislative Council, or a Vidhan Parishad -- the Upper House of state legislature. The decision was taken on May 17 during the virtual Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Once the council is set up, it would pave way for accommodating those who could not be get elected to Legislative Assembly or the leaders who were excluded from the party candidates list for the assembly elections.
"The Cabinet cleared a proposal for creation of the Vidhan Parishad. This will now be sent to the Governor and after his approval, it will go to the state assembly for the necessary approval," news agency PTI quoted an official as saying.
As per the norm, to create or to abolish a state legislative council, the state Legislative Assembly must pass a resolution, which must be supported by majority of the strength of the House. The Trinamool Congress won the recently-concluded assembly elections by bagging 213 seats of the state's 292 seats that went to polls. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 77.
West Bengal had a two-House or a bicameral system of legislature till it was abolished by the United Front government in 1969. Setting up a Legislative Council was one of the promises in the TMC's poll manifesto.
CM Banerjee and Bengal's Finance Minister Amit Mitra are currently not members of the Legislative Assembly and thus can be nominated to the Council once it is established. In that case, the leaders will not be required to get elected to the Assembly. A chief minister or a minister has to be member of either of the two Houses.
While Mitra did not contest the election, Banerjee lost to her former aide and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari by 1,956 votes from Nandigram
While members of Legislative Assembly (Lower House) are elected by the people through voting, those who make it to the Legislative Council (Upper House) are either elected by Members of Legislative Assembly, members of local bodies or nominated by the Governor.
Once the Council is set up, West Bengal will become the seventh Indian state to have a bicameral system of legislature. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka are the others states that have a Legislative Council. Many other states like Assam, Rajasthan and Odisha have also been exploring such a possibility.
The size of the legislative council cannot be more than one-third of the membership of the state legislative assembly. So, there can be 98 Members of Legislative Council (MLCs) for the 294-member West Bengal Legislative Assembly members. An MLC has to be at least 30 years of age and is elected for six years. The Council has a chairman and a deputy chairman like the Rajya Sabha.