A day after a fierce debate between the government and the BJP over WikiLeaks cables, a new bonhomie saw the main opposition party come to the rescue of the government — against a surprise Left bid to thwart introduction of the pension bill in Lok Sabha.
The BJP voted along with the treasury benches for introduction of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2011 as the Left pressed for a “division” to check the actual number of MPs in the House in support of the bill.
With weak attendance on the treasury bench, the government could have been embarrassed had the BJP had joined hands with the Left.
Fortunately for the government, the division showed the bill had the backing of 115 members, while 43 opposed it and one abstained. As many as 159 member were present in the 543-member House.
The bill is to pave way for private players in pension sector, help cut government spending, and allow part investment of the corpus in the stock market.
Speaker Meira Kumar surprised the government by allowing the division sought by CPM leader Basudeb Acharia.
The bill had failed to get parliamentary approval in the Manmohan Singh government’s previous term due to opposition from its then Left allies.The Speaker rejected parliamentary affairs minister PK Bansal’s stand that rules say the member has to make a statement giving reasons for opposing a bill. As the Speaker called for division, Bansal rushed to BJP benches to speak to Sushma Swaraj and L K Advani, who conveyed the BJP’s decision to allow introduction of the bill.
Acharia was seen urging Advani to support him. “We were opposing this legislation during UPA-I. They are bringing it now,” he told Advani. But Swaraj told JD-U chief Sharad Yadav the NDA government was the first to think of the legislation.
Congress floor managers privately admitted the BJP had saved the UPA from a major embarrassment.
“There was no whip. While some of our members are busy in poll-bound states, the others were involved in election of members of various committees,” said Paban Singh Ghatowar, Congress chief whip in Lok Sabha.