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Unorganised MPs during unorganised sector Bill voting invite Sonia's ire

Saubhadro Chatterji  |  New Delhi 

Sonia Gandhi

A furious Sonia Gandhi has sought explanations from more than 60 Lok Sabha members, including ministers of her party, on their absence during the voting on the Unorganised Sector Workers Welfare Bill in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

Ministers including Mani Shankar Aiyar, Kamal Nath, Santosh Mohan Deb, Meira Kumar and Pati Ripple Kyndiah have been sent letters by Pranab Mukherjee, the Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, on behalf of Gandhi, asking them to show reasons why they were absent during the crucial minutes of voting. In the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting this morning, Gandhi again expressed her unhappiness over the issue.

Although the Left, supported by other Opposition parties, moved 11 amendments against the original Bill, on two occasions it sought division or proper voting. The UPA managed to win on both the occasions. The first voting, on an amendment to Clause 9 of the Bill, was won by a margin of just 17 votes (UPA 107, Opposition 90). The second amendment, on Clause 16, was won by the UPA by a margin of 20 votes (106:126).

The UPA got 275 votes during the trust vote in last July.

The unorganised sector Bill, which aims to provide various social security schemes for around 34 crore workers, was a pet issue of Gandhi. When she saw empty treasury bench seats before the voting started, she immediately asked Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, “Where are the Congress MPs?” Although the Congress party didn’t issue any whip, which makes the presence of the MPs mandatory, Gandhi expressed her annoyance to Ravi for not managing the floor properly.

After the voting was over, Gandhi immediately directed Ravi to seek explanations from the absentee MPs. While Deb and Kamal Nath are currently unwell and were unable to come to the House, Mani Shankar Aiyar missed the first voting and managed to enter the House before the second voting.

Senior leaders said that as the current Lok Sabha is coming to an end, many MPs are not taking the remaining days seriously. But Gandhi is angry as she has decided to hold the elections according to the schedule and feels even the next few months could be utilised to deliver more results to the voters.

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First Published: Fri, December 19 2008. 00:00 IST