SLEEP WELL, SON, RAHULJI WILL NOT ALLOW ANY MONKEY BUSINESS IN THE REPUBLIC
|Monkeys locked in a filial cuddle near Parliament
House on Wednesday.
Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Oct. 2: The Union cabinet today bowed to Rahul Gandhi’s opinion and decided to withdraw both the ordinance and the bill meant to provide a breather to convicted lawmakers.
The curtains were brought down on one of the most embarrassing chapters in UPA II after Rahul went to the Prime Minister’s residence in the morning to reassure Manmohan Singh that there was no intention to undermine the cabinet and his authority.
The cabinet reversed its decision this evening after the Congress core committee accepted Rahul’s view.
Prime Minister Singh, who spoke to restive UPA allies after the core committee decision, met President Pranab Mukherjee and formally conveyed to him the government’s intention to withdraw the ordinance.
At the meeting with the Prime Minister, sources said, Rahul iterated his high regard for Singh and expressed regret for the hurt his public denouncement of the cabinet decision had caused.
Congress leaders said Sonia Gandhi had scripted an “honourable” exit from the crisis, asking Rahul to explain his position to the Prime Minister before the core committee put its seal on the reversal. She had earlier made it clear the party was strongly behind the Prime Minister, praising his leadership in public on two consecutive days.
Rahul conceded before Singh today that the manner in which his objection to the ordinance was made public was improper, the sources said.
The core committee meeting later was cordial, the sources said. No minister opposed the withdrawal at the cabinet meeting, they added.
Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari insisted that the cabinet decision to withdraw the ordinance was “unanimous”. Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had expressed concern over the situation obtaining from the Supreme Court order.
Asked about the reason for the reversal, Tewari said: “As the Prime Minister articulated yesterday, democracy is not a monolithic, authoritarian system of governance. We respect divergence of views and Rahul’s views came after the widest possible feedback. ”
The Prime Minister had to meet the President before the cabinet formally withdrew the ordinance because Pranab Mukherjee was leaving on a six-day foreign tour at 2pm.
The President too had certain objections to the ordinance, and the BJP had been urging him to return it. The government did not want this and chose to withdraw it instead.
The bill, introduced in the Rajya Sabha and sent to a standing committee in the monsoon session, will also be withdrawn.
The ordinance as well as the bill to amend the Representation of the People Act would have overturned the Supreme Court order automatically disqualifying legislators after conviction even by a lower court.
Initially the government had not planned to scrap the bill but was forced to review that decision, given the circumstances in which the ordinance was junked. Had the bill remained in the pipeline, the government would have been accused of achieving the same objective through a different route.
The Congress leadership decided to wipe the slate clean, leaving it to other parties to take a fresh initiative to introspect on the sagacity of the Supreme Court order.
The BJP and other political parties had initially asked the government to take necessary steps to overturn the court order and but had later done a U-turn to score political points.
With Rahul taking the moral high ground, the government does not want to offer any talking point to the Opposition.
Announcing the government decision, minister Tewari said: “The bill is a property of Parliament and an appropriate motion to withdraw it will be moved at an appropriate time.”
The motion can be moved only in the winter session.
Asked why one individual’s view changed the cabinet’s understanding when senior ministers were justifying the ordinance, the minister said: “It is true that central ministers, including myself, defended the ordinance. It is my responsibility as the spokesperson of the government to defend the cabinet decision. Now if the cabinet in its rationale has taken some other decision, I will defend that as well.”
Commenting on the Opposition’s criticism of the developments, he said: “Which Opposition are you talking about? All the parties supported the idea of making amendment in the law. Now, the people’s sentiments were considered by the sensitive government.”
What we know and what we donít on the ordinance outburst
Did Rahul Gandhi catch the government and the Congress by surprise?
Yes and no. The government as well as the party were stunned by the way Rahul acted at the Press Club of India in New Delhi. The shocked face of Ajay Maken, who was seated beside Rahul when he was uttering phrases like “complete nonsense” and “torn up”, said it all.
But the Prime Minister, who chooses his words with extreme care, did not specifically wonder why Rahul opposed the ordinance. Manmohan Singh’s exact words on Tuesday were: “When I go back, I will try to find out the reasons why it had to be done that way....”
The Prime Minister, at least in public, was not questioning Rahul’s objection itself but appeared to be laying stress on the theatrical manner, not to mention the timing and the venue, in which it was registered.
The Congress, which never loses an opportunity to defend the family, also was uncharacteristically discreet about the three factors. “We don’t know about the timing or venue or language... you better ask him,” party spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said on Monday.
But were the Congress and the government unaware of Rahul’s position? Doesn’t seem so. The so-called “Rahul Brigade” — some of the younger ministers — had already started voicing reservations about the ordinance before Rahul spoke up.