Pension bill introduced in LS with BJP support

New Delhi: For a change, BJP on Thursday came to the rescue of the government saving it from embarrassment as the Left parties pressed for a division on a bill to regulate pension funds at the introduction stage itself.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal was among a few senior ministers present and the attendance on the Treasury benches was thin ringing alarm bells for the government.

The Treasury benches appeared to be caught unawares as Speaker Meira Kumar ordered division on introduction of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2011 at the insistence of CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia.

"We are opposing introduction of the Bill. I am asking for division instead of a voice vote," Acharia said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, several ministers and members were not present in the House.

Bansal cited rules which state that the member has to make a brief statement giving reasons for opposing a Bill. The person moving the Bill is also allowed to make a statement.

Manish Tewari (Cong) pointed out that the rules state that a notice to oppose the introduction of a Bill, addressed to the Secretary General, has to be given by the member by 10:00 hours on the day on which the motion for leave to introduce the Bill is included in the list of business.

The Speaker gave a ruling in favour of division.

Acharia was seen urging senior BJP leader L K Advani to support him. "We were opposing this legislation during UPA-I.

They (government) are bringing it now," he was heard telling Advani.

During UPA-I, the Left parties with over 60 members, were key outside supporters of the government.

The Bill was introduced after a division of votes which showed as many as 115 members backing the proposed legislation, 43 opposing it and one member abstaining from voting. As many as 159 member were present in the 543-member House.

Later, a junior minister said the Prime Minister and Mukherjee, who were scheduled to be present in the Rajya Sabha, could not make it to the Lok Sabha as the lobbies were cleared. After the lobbies are cleared, no member is allowed to enter the House.