New Delhi, March 23: Two months from the second anniversary of her renunciation of the Prime Minister’s post, Sonia Gandhi made a double “sacrifice” today to pull the government led by her party out of a hole it had dug for itself.
“Upholding the ideals of public life and politics and personal belief, I resign from Lok Sabha membership,” she said, reading from a statement, clad in a sari whose colour could be mistaken as the hue of sacrifice, saffron, though a little pale.
Congress MPs Karan Singh and Gurudas Kamat followed suit.
Sonia also resigned the post of head of the National Advisory Council, deemed an “office of profit” by the Opposition that yesterday singled her out for attack after being handed the opportunity by the government.
In an unprecedented double measure, the government had cut short the budget session, deciding to issue an ordinance to exempt certain offices of profit from the purview of the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act.
Several complaints had gone to the President and the Election Commission about MPs ' among them, Sonia and Speaker Somnath Chatterjee ' holding such offices of profit. After Samajwadi member Jaya Bachchan’s disqualification on this ground, there were fears that these MPs would also be handed similar punishment by the commission, the deciding authority.
Although MPs of all parties are affected under the law, the Opposition had picked out Sonia. BJP leader L.K. Advani had said everything else was an excuse, “Sonia ko bachana hai”, a slight that struck the Congress president straight at the heart, sources said.
“Some people were trying to create an ambience suggesting as though the government and Parliament were being used only to promote my interests,” Sonia said. “My only pledge is to serve the nation and Bharatiya society and protect its secular values.”
Downcast after the outrage yesterday over the closing of the budget session and the announcement of the ordinance, her decision whipped the Congress back to life as supporters descended on 10 Janpath in a throwback to the scenes of May 18, 2004, when she declined to be Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Sonia had once again proved she was the country’s “tallest leader and has a rare commitment to moral values which you don’t find in plenty in our country”.
Later, when she climbed the fender of a vehicle outside her residence and the party office that stand cheek by jowl to wave to the supporters gathered outside, she towered over everyone around.
For the moment, though, by standing tall she appeared to have rescued Manmohan Singh’s government from a deep crisis. Not only has the BJP put the government on the mat for the ordinance, its ally, the Left, too, has opposed the method of amending the law. It does not, however, dismiss the grounds for changing the law, with 10 of its MPs being affected.
Nor does the BJP for that matter or the Samajwadis, the two that are causing the maximum noise about Sonia, because their MPs are in similar trouble. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, the parliamentary affairs minister, said several MPs, like the BJP’s Arun Jaitley and Samajwadi member Amar Singh, had been pressing for an amendment.
The Prime Minister said: “There is no explicit decision as of now (on bringing the ordinance).... We have not considered the ordinance. All options are open. We will discuss with other political parties and strive to have the widest possible consensus.”
Why this consensus was not worked out before announcing the ordinance and ending the Parliament session was a question that went unanswered. Singh did say, though, that Parliament was adjourned as all parties wanted it to be for the Assembly polls.
“This decision was not made yesterday. This decision was made with the consent of all political parties many days ago that the House will reconvene after the elections.”
After Sonia’s resignation, it is more than likely that all parties will agree to pass a bill to amend the law. In that case, all that this drama will have as its denouement is another election in Rae Bareli.
“Main jaroor ladoongi, Rae Bareli se hi ladoongi,” Sonia said.