Slip-up in floor management prompts UPA to pull up socks

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 29 2011, 06:51am hrs
The UPA government is expecting a tense day of floor management in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday when the Lokpal Bill comes up for voting.

Poor floor management by the government did it in on Tuesday when it could not muster the requisite support in Lok Sabha for the Bill aimed at giving the status of a Constitutional body for the proposed anti-corruption ombudsman.

Despite a constitutionally empowered Lokpal being the pet idea of Rahul Gandhi, as many as 18 MPs belonging to the Congress and its allies were missing from the treasury side when the vote was taken at almost Tuesday midnight.

On Wednesday morning, Congress president Sonia Gandhi wanted to know which Congress MPs had skipped the session and why. While Suresh Kalmadi and former telecom minister A Raja who are in Tihar Jail could not turn up for obvious reasons, at least 11 other Congress MPs, two Trinamool Congress MPs and two other DMK MPs (both ministers of state) were missing in action.

Among those missing from the Congress side was minister of state (independent charge) for mines Dinsha Patel who was in Gujarat for his grand daughters wedding, along with four other MPs from the state who were guests at the ceremony. I had informed minister for parliamentary affairs Pawan Kumar Bansal that I would be away, said Patel when asked about his absence.

Young MP Hamdullah Syed who went missing is understood to have told Congress chief whips Girija Vyas and Sandeep Dikshit that he was ill. Rajmohan and Rajagopal Reddy, loyal to Jagan Mohan Reddy but still Congress MPs, were also missing. The DMKs numbers were also diminished by the absence of ministers of state D Napoleon and Jagatrakshagan, the Trinamool Congress also had absentees, singer Kabir Suman and actor Tapas Pal.

The embarrassment of Tuesday night was probably weighing hard on the government, which took its time to introduce the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha where it has a problem even mustering a simple majority.

Voting on the Bill will take place on Thursday morning,with the government taking its time to woo allies Trinamool Congress (which said it would move amendments on the Bill in the Rajya Sabha) and the BSP and the SP as well as the RJD and the LJP. Despite all this, the Rajya Sabha numbers are precarious and Thursday will be a very tense day indeed for the ruling coalition's floor managers.