Shah takes serious note of BJP members absence in Rajya Sabha
BJP President Amit Shah on Tuesday took serious note of the absence of party members from the Rajya Sabha, where the government faced major embarrassment a day ago when the opposition pushed through an amendment to a bill granting constitutional status to the OBC Commission due to the treasury benches lacking numbers.
Addressing the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting in the absence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is touring flood-hit Assam, Shah also warned those who were absent to be cautious in future, sources said.
"At the meeting, Shah said that when the party issues a whip it must be followed by all the MPs. The party president has taken a serious note of it. It should not have happened and must not be repeated," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said after the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting here.
He said the party will speak with those members who were absent at Tuesday's meeting.
Shah also asked the MPs to "expose the Congress" for stalling the setting up of the Other Backward Classes commission.
He said the Congress had "hatched a conspiracy" against the backward classes and the party's behaviour in the Rajya Sabha "exposes its anti-backward mindset" and MPs need to expose it, sources said.
Shah maintained that when the Rajya Sabha select committee had unanimously passed the bill then why did Congress leaders propose the amendment. The Bill had earlier been passed unanimously in the Lok Sabha. He said the Congress "intentionally insisted on illegitimate amendments".
He asked MPs to be present in the House till the session ends. It's the responsibility of the MPs towards the party and the country to remain present in the House. Members not being present in Parliament is "not acceptable", he said, the sources said.
The absence of BJP members from both the houses has been a matter of concern for the Prime Minister and the party as well.
Addressing the Parliamentary Party meeting last week, Modi had expressed his displeasure over BJP members remaining absent in both Houses of Parliament leading to trouble or embarrassment for the government.
Modi had said that "he was worried, and dissatisfied with the percentage of presence of party members in the houses," a BJP MP said.
The government had to face an embarrassing situation in the Rajya Sabha last week when a bill on jurisdiction and settlement of maritime claims could not be taken up due to lack of quorum.
The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017, which seeks to grant the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) constitutional status, was passed by the Lok Sabha in April and referred to the Rajya Sabha's Select Committee after opposition parties blocked its passage in the Upper House.
The select committee adopted the report without any amendment and the bill was then presented in the Rajya Sabha.
On Monday, after day-long discussion over the Bill, Congress members Digvijaya Singh, B.K. Hariprasad and Hussain Dalwai moved an amendment to clause 3 of the bill seeking to provide for appointment of all the five members of the commission from the OBC community, including a woman and a person from the minority community.
This was objected to by the government's side. Leader of the House Arun Jaitley said what the Congress members were seeking could be looked into at the time of framing of rules under the law.
When the amended Clause 3 of the bill was put to vote, the BJP members voted against it. The result of the division was 69 ayes and 50 noes.
Shah accused the Congress of hatching a conspiracy to not approve the bill, though it was passed by the Lok Sabha and approved by the select committee.