Govt red-faced after BJP MPs press the wrong button

Govt red-faced after BJP MPs press the wrong button

Besides the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was absent in the Lok Sabha during the voting on the GST bill, the government was also embarrassed by many MPs of the ruling BJP who pressed the wrong button while voting on a clause of the proposed legislation.

The mistake was corrected after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan put the clause to vote again, following a request by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who was visibly upset after the BJP MPs’ “voted against the bill” piloted by him. Some Opposition MPs protested the Speaker’s decision to put the clause to vote again.

The BJP on Tuesday issued a whip asking all its MPs to be present in both Houses of Parliament till Friday to ensure passage of important bills, including the ones to amend the Constitution for introduction of the new Goods and Services Tax regime and for ratification of the India-Bangladesh land boundary agreement.

The whip was issued as the government was desperate to ensure two-third majority in the Houses to get the Constitution amendment bills passed.

Though most of the BJP MPs were present in the Lok Sabha during voting on the GST bill, the prime minister himself was absent. Jaitley is understood to have asked MoS for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy if the prime minister would be coming to the House when the government moved closer to implement the reform it had been promising.

Rudy, according to the sources, told Jaitley that Modi was in the Parliament House complex and a message was conveyed to him that the GST bill was being put to vote in the Lok Sabha.

The government, however, experienced the real embarrassment when the Speaker put Clause 2 of the bill to vote. Several BJP MPs pressed the red instead of green button and thus voted against the clause. Apparently, they mistook it as voting on an amendment moved by one of the opposition MPs, who was demanding that the proposed legislation should be sent to the parliamentary standing committee again.

In addition to electronically registering their votes, the MPs also have the option of writing on paper-slips to ensure that their vote is recorded accurately. Before the finance minister requested the Speaker to put the clause to vote again, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs was seen asking the BJP MPs to ensure that they pressed the right button.

The number of votes against the clause went down to five from the previous 24 during re-voting. The number of MPs supporting it went up to 354 against 264 earlier. Altogether, 364 members voted during re-voting while only 297 had voted earlier. 

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