Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury prevails over Kerala MPs’ objections on NIA voting
However, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury explained the strategy in voting for bill after AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi and Amit Shah surprised Congress by seeking a division.
Congress MPs such as K Muraleedharan and Benny Behanan were learnt to have opined that the Congress should not have voted for the bill and the decision should have been made only after discussing all aspects, according to a person present at the Tuesday morning interaction of Congress Lok Sabha MPs with Gandhi at the CPP office. Some MPs said at the meeting that their apprehensions were based on how the Congress voting would be interpreted by people in Kerala, especially minority communities, given their skepticism about NIA. The fact that MPs of CPM and CPI, Congress turf rivals in Kerala, voted against the bill along with AIMIM, and abstention of Congress allies IUML and RSP may have added to their anxiety.
However, Chowdhury — whose constant advice to party MPs after appointment as Congress floor leader has been “think nationally, not locally, in Parliament” — explained the strategy in voting for bill after AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi and home minister Amit Shah surprised Congress by seeking a division. According to the source, Chowdhury contended since NIA was UPA’s brainchild, Congress could not have opposed the amendments proposed ostensibly to strengthen the agency. Secondly, Congress MPs had expressed reservations on NIA ‘misuse’ during the debate, had cautioned against abuse of the amendments and advocated the need for NIA to function judiciously and impartially. He said as soon as Shah and Owaisi pushed for ‘division”, he had said the bill could be passed by a voice vote. But once Shah argued the country should know “who all supported and opposed” anti-terror provision, it became obligatory for Congress, given its national priorities, to vote for the bill and foil the BJP government’s game plan to point fingers at it, Chowdhury argued. He is also learnt to have said major opposition parties such as DMK, Trinamool and NCP too had voted for the bill and that he represented a constituency where 70% of the population comprised Muslims. Many Congress MPs supported the strategy, settling the issue with Sonia Gandhi who listened to all views. Some Congress MPs, sources said, felt Shah and Owaisi seeking division was part of a plan to ‘trip’ the Congress before the ‘national gallery’.