Congress president Sonia Gandhi has taken serious objection that as many as 68 of the party’s 152 members, including a dozen ministers, had played truant from the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, giving the UPA government some anxious moments when the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Bill was being passed in the House.
“I am pained (by the high absenteeism),’’ she reportedly told the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting on Thursday, departing from the text of her three-page address to make this interjection.
Among those who could not make it to the House in time included Cabinet ministers like Meira Kumar and K.R. Kyndiah.
Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee has now sent letters to the absentees, demanding an explanation why they were not present despite a three-line whip issued for the day. Such a whip makes the presence of members imperative when the bill is taken up and voted on.
Though the House adopted the bill by voice vote, the government barely scraped past when an Opposition MP pressed for a division on his amendment to the bill. Immediately, the doors were shut to take the vote, leaving most Congress members stranded outside. Ninety MPs voted for the amendment and 107 against it.
To ensure that this scenario was not repeated, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi along with other Congress leaders rushed to rally the numbers.
The situation improved greatly when the National Investigation Agency Bill and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill were taken up. But that was also partly because the main Opposition was voting along with the UPA. CPI-M member Basudeb Acharia’s amendment got the support of only 28 members while 187 opposed it, allowing the government to heave a sigh of relief.