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Close shave for govt on IDBI bill

New Delhi, Dec. 8: The BJP-led NDA government today came perilously close to being defeated in the Lok Sabha after a division was called on an amendment to its bill to convert IDBI into an universal bank.

The Constitution says that if a government suffers a defeat on a money bill, it has to immediately tender its resignation and the Vajpayee government was just a vote away from this today.

The Opposition, which was up in arms against certain provisions of the IDBI amendment bill, demanded finance minister Jaswant Singh work in an assurance that the state would retain a 51 per cent stake in IDBI after it was converted into a bank.

Initially, the BJP was not willing to accede to the demand claiming that while the government intends to retain a 51 per cent stake, it was not essential to write this in the bill.

When the Opposition insisted, a vote was called. The BJP MPs, expecting an easy passage for the bill, had decided to play hooky from the House. The electronic voting saw defeat staring at the government with 36 votes against the bill and only 33 in favour.

Slips were called for those whose votes did not record and 15 minutes elapsed. At the end of this, a BJP backbencher suddenly got up to ask for a slip claiming his vote had not been recorded.

The Opposition burst out in protest, claiming the members had not been present when the voting took place and had slipped in later when the doors were opened for a Lok Sabha staffer. The House rules dictate that once voting has been announced and the division bell rung, the doors of the House are shut and MPs not present are not allowed to vote.

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