Embarrassed by the failure to get the constitutional amendment bill passed in the Lok Sabha, the Congress has served showcause notices to 13 of its members who played truant during Tuesday's voting. But the rebuke for letting down Rahul Gandhi's "game changer" is expected to be mild, given the UPA's razor thin majority in the Lok Sabha.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee downplayed the issue.
"Even if all our MPs were present during voting, the bill would still have fallen," he said.
"As many as 285 members were required for its passage as there were 420 MPs in the House."
A constitution amendment bill not only requires a simple majority, it also needs the support of two thirds of those present and voting. For a simple majority 273 votes would have been enough, but under the second requirement, the bill needed 285 votes to be passed. At the present instance, it did not even garner enough votes to meet the first requirement.
Apart from 7-8 MPs of allies, Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said 13 Congress members were absent during the voting despite a three-line whip. Only two had sought prior permission.The failure to pass the bill has also showed Congress floor managers in a poor light, as they not only could not ensure the presence of party members in the House, but also failed to anticipate the BJP plan to turn the tables on the UPA.
It was possible that the Congress managers were hoping the BJP might allow the constitutional bill to go the lokpal way, since some of their important amendments were accepted by the government.
But that did not happen. The BJP smelled blood the moment the result of the division over the amendment moved by BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab flashed on the electronic tally display board, putting the figure to around 250. Thereafter, the BJP voted out each clause to nullify the bill.