BJP helps govt counter Left on pension bill

Proposed law aims to regulate pension funds through watchdog

 As the Bill was tabled in Lok Sabha, the Left parties vehemently opposed it at the introduction stage itself and sought division of votes. CPM’s Basudev Acharia opposed the Bill at the introduction stage and sought a division of voting on it.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal was among a few senior ministers present in the House and the attendance on the Treasury benches was also thin.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee were not present in the House during its introduction as the speaker had cleared the lobbies. After the lobbies are cleared, no member is allowed to enter the House.

Bansal set off a brief commotion in the House when he intervened to say that those opposing the Bill would have to give reasons for it.

Congress’ Manish Tewari said that the rules made it mandatory for a member to give a notice to the Lok Sabha secretary general to oppose the introduction of a bill. The notice, he pointed out, should be given by 10 a.m. on the day the bill is listed in the business.

But Speaker Meira Kumar ordered a division and electronic voting was conducted. This set off panic as there were only a handful MPs from the treasury benches while Opposition benches were nearly full indicating that the government was clearly in a minority.

At this stage, Acharia was seen requesting senior BJP leader L K Advani to support the Left parties but BJP remained unmoved.

“We were opposing this legislation during UPA-I. They (government) are bringing it now,” he was heard telling Advani. However, by then, the BJP and its friendly parties in NDA had decided to support the government.

The Bill was later introduced with 115 supporting it and 43 opposing, while one abstained among the 159 members present in the 543-member House.

The Bill proposes to regulate pension funds by according statutory status to Interim Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (IPFRDA), set up through a government resolution in 2003.

The BJP’s move to support the bill came as a surprise to many as it was only 24 hours ago that the party was seen up against the UPA government and in particular Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue of cash for vote scam during the 2008 trust motion of the UPA.

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