Shah seeks written explanation from absentee MPs in RS
BJP president Amit Shah has taken a serious view of party members not attending the Rajya Sabha despite a whip and will seek a written explanation from the absentee MPs, party leaders said on Tuesday.
On Monday, more than 30 MPs from the BJP and its allied parties, including at least five ministers, were missing when the Constitution amendment bill, which provides for the setting up of a National Commission for Backward Classes, was changed after amendments moved by the Opposition were passed by the Rajya Sabha, where the government is still in a minority and needs to ensure that its members are present in full strength when bills are taken up to be able to put up any resistance to an opposition challenge.
The bill was passed - without the main clause which relates to its composition — by 74 to 52 votes. The BJP's strength alone is 56 in the Rajya Sabha, while it has the support of 88 members, counting all allies, including the 10 MPs of new partner Janata Dal United (JDU). The JDU's Sharad Yadav, who is upset over his colleague and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's decision to partner with the BJP in the state, voted with the opposition. Others from his party were not present.
Shah made his displeasure clear at the BJP parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday, a day after the government faced an embarrassing situation in the Upper House with a united opposition pushing some changes to the Constitutional amendment bill on backward classes.
The BJP chief has asked party MPs to be present in both Houses during the session and told them "not to repeat" (such conduct), Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said.
"When the party issues a whip, members must be present in the House. The party president has taken a serious view of the absence of members. He said it should not have happened and must not be repeated," Kumar said.
"The absentee MPs will be asked to give their explanation in writing," added a senior party leader on the condition of anonymity. He said their absence despite a party whip asking them to ensure their presence was a serious matter.
Modi did not attend the meeting as he is in Assam to review the flood crisis.
The amended bill will now have to be returned to the Lok Sabha for its fresh approval. The Lower House had already passed the bill, meant to upgrade the Backward Classes Commission from a statutory body to a constitutional body, which will give it powers equal to a court to summon people and inquire into incidents of violence and discrimination against backward classes.