Comic relief: When voting for the GST threw up ‘magic’ numbers in Rajya Sabha
The hectic seven-hour plus debate on the long-pending GST Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, which had become a major hurdle for the Narendra Modi government’s reforms agenda, had all the makings of an intense potboiler.
After months of opposition from the Congress, which had introduced the bill during its rule in the first place, there were signals that its hostility had descended. However, one really didn’t know which way the ball would turn.
While everything did eventually turn up in favour of the uniform tax regime despite reservations expressed by many sides, including BJP ally Shiv Sena, the ‘climax’ had some much-needed amusement in store after all the tension.
The ‘comic’ relief did not come from a member this time. Instead, it was the electronic voting machine that members use to vote for or against a particular legislation or its clauses.
In the midst of passage of the “historic” GST Bill on Wednesday, the electronic voting system kept throwing up varying number of votes as each amendment was put to vote. The catch here is that while the number of ‘noes’ stuck to zero, the number of ‘ayes’ kept climbing up. It must be noted that once lobbies are cleared for voting, the doors are closed and there is no scope for members to move in or out of the House.
As the motion to adopt the Bill was put to vote, the number of Ayes was 197 while the number of noes was nil.
However, by the time clause two was put to vote, the number of Ayes went to 200 to zero 'Noes', and for clause 11, there were 201 Ayes while Noes remained zero.
The varying figure prompted Congress member Anand Sharma to comment that while lobbies have been cleared, it seemed that four extra people had appeared.
Amid amusement all around, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said the figure was subject to correction.
However, when the next clause was put to vote, there were 203 Ayes prompting Kurien to himself remark that the number was "ascending."
When the number of Ayes reached 205 at one stage, Kurien himself quipped that "there is some magic also."
The number again came down to 198 Ayes later but finally the Bill was passed with 203 Ayes.
As the key reform crossed a major milestone, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley walked up towards opposition benches shaking hands and exchanging greetings with leaders of different parties including former PM Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
He also shook hands and greeted other leaders like Derek O Brien (TMC), Sitaram Yechury (CPI M), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Kanimojhi (DMK), Sharad Yadav (JD-U) and Mayawati (BSP). Later, he cut a cake in his chamber.
(With inputs from PTI)