UPA unprepared, needs BJP to move Pension Bill

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 25 2011, 06:46am hrs
The UPA government was left red-faced on Thursday as it had to appeal to the Opposition BJP for help to introduce the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill, 2011, as it did not have enough MPs in the Lok Sabha at the time.

The Bill was introduced with a majority of 115 to 46 opposed, but not before the Left parties, the Telugu Desam Party, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Biju Janata Dal and the Janata Dal (United) had banded together to oppose it and laid bare the governments sloppy floor management.

The Bill, which till Wednesday had not been on the governments radar, was introduced on Thursday in the Lok Sabha by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, when he found there was sparse attendance in the treasury benches. Seeing this, the Left, which had always opposed Bills pertaining to pension and insurance reforms, asked the Speaker for a vote on whether the Bill should be introduced.

The CPIs Gurudas Dasgupta and RJDs Raghuvansh Prasad Singh spoke out against the Bill and demanded a division and not a voice vote. Under a division, the actual votes for and against are recorded.

The government was not in a position to refuse and a vote was duly ordered. This put the government in a fix of sorts as it barely had enough members. HRD minister Kapil Sibal may have skipped a function with Microsoft chief Bill Gates to attend, but that was little comfort.

But the BJP came to the governments rescue, though there seemed to be a split within the NDA as the Janata Dal (U) which, as part of the NDA government had supported the executive decision of setting up the PFRDA, voted against the introduction of the Bill.

Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said that she tried to reason with Sharad Yadav of the JD(U). I personally told Sharad Yadavji that this is mainly an NDA bill, which we introduced as an executive decision during our time. I dont know whether they voted for or against, she said.

The final number stood at 115 ayes to 46 nays and one abstention. Government managers tried to downplay the near disaster for the government, as the fall of a money Bill like the pension regulatory Bill can mean the fall of the government. The BJP had to support the bill, they introduced it during their time too, said minister of state for parliamentary affairs Ashwini Kumar. Right now, nobodys buying this argument, and though the government has lived to tell the tale, some heads are bound to roll.