Congress asks MPs to explain absence

Congress asks MPs to explain absence

New Delhi: The Congress party has asked its absent members of parliament (MPs) why they were not present at the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, when the Unorganized Sector Workers Social Security Bill, 2007—aimed at providing social security and job protection to at least 375 million workers in the unorganized sector—was passed on a thin majority.

At least 60 Congress MPs have been sent show-cause notices, a staff member of the office of external affairs minister and leader of the party in the Lok Sabha said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media.

Party president Sonia Gandhi was “very angry" with the MPs’ “callous approach" to parliamentary proceedings, said a Congress leader, who declined to be named. Gandhi sought an explanation from parliamentary affairs minister Vayalar Ravi on why a “large number of MPs were not present" during the passage of a Bill expected to help the Congress gain political mileage in next year’s general elections, he said.

Ravi consulted Mukherjee and they decided to ask for explanation from the absent MPs, he added.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has a small majority in the Lower House after the Left parties withdrew support to the alliance in July. The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party supported the Bill.

The official quoted earlier said 68 Congress MPs, including ministers Santosh Mohan Dev, Mani Shankar Aiyer, Kamal Nath and P.R. Kyndiah, were not present in the House during Wednesday’s voting.

Although Aiyer’s office said the minister was present and voted for the Bill, an official in the parliamentary affairs ministry said he didn’t take part in the first voting. He came in to vote against the second amendment, the second official said, who also didn’t want to be identified. Dev’s office said the minister could not come to the House due to health problems.

The ruling alliance managed to defeat the first amendment proposed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) by just 17 votes (107-90) and the second amendment by 20 votes (126-106) in the 543-member House. The government faced a similar tense moment when the Bill was taken up for approval in the Rajya Sabha in October, where it won passage by just six votes.