With the Cabinet deciding on Wednesday to withdraw the Ordinance as well as the Bill pending before Parliament in respect of convicted MPs and MLAs yet another ugly chapter in the unflattering history of the UPA Government has ended.
That most of the media reports on this development have described it as a victory for Rahul Gandhi is a comment on how superficial the media generally has become these days.
In fact, when just before departing from the U.S. after his meetings with President Obama and Pak P.M. Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh observed that he would discuss with his Cabinet after his return what the party’s Vice President has said about the Ordinance, I commented to a friend that all that Rahul Gandhi had said about the Ordinance in his three-and-a-half minute speech was that the Ordinance was “complete nonsense” and deserved to be “torn” and “thrown away.”
What was there in this outburst which the PM could possibly discuss with his Cabinet?
After all, Rahul Gandhi had not given a single argument why he felt the Ordinance was wrong. In contrast, when on September 26 evening, accompanied by our leaders in the two Houses, Smt. Sushma Swaraj and Shri Arun Jaitley, I went to Rashtrapati Bhavan, and presented to the President a four-page representation, our memo elaborated why we of the BJP regarded the Ordinance not only unconstitutional and illegal, but also immoral, besides being procedurally wrong inasmuch as the Bill which the Ordinance sought to replace had been already referred to a Standing Committee of the Rajya Sabha.
I recall that it was on Tuesday 24 September that the Cabinet approved the Ordinance to protect convicted MPs, MLAs, in effect negating the Supreme Court’s order. The first reaction from the Opposition was Sushma’s tweet that BJP would oppose the Ordinance. She consulted me shortly thereafter and we decided to approach the Rashtrapati and urge him not to sign the Ordinance. When she sought an appointment from Rashtrapati Bhavan, she gathered that the President had gone to Puducherry and would return only on September 26 at 4.00 pm.
We met him at 5.30 pm that day and were with him for 45 minutes or so. At the end of our meeting we got the clear impression that he was convinced that the situation merited his intervention.
When shortly thereafter TV channels began relaying that he had summoned Shinde and Sibal, and still later, Kamalnath, it became evident that things had started moving.
It seems these Ministers were told that the President had reservations about signing the Ordinance. This must have alarmed the Ministers. The President returning the Ordinance to the Government unsigned would have been a major setback for Government.
It is then perhaps that Soniaji may have thought of doing some damage control using Rahul for the purpose. It is obvious however, that no one advised him how precisely he was to carry out this task. The objective would have been fully served if Rahul had simply said that the decision taken by the Government needs to be reviewed. What he said instead has made The Indian Express (October 3, 2013) write a caustic editorial captioned “Losing Face”. The sub heading runs: “He may have won, but Rahul Gandhi has rubbed off more of the U.P.A.’s authority.”
Rahul’s victory is really confined to rubbing off U.P.A’s authority, and not merely the Prime Minister’s. From Day One, U.P.A. has always meant Dr. Manmohan Singh and Smt. Sonia Gandhi.
So, the ‘nonsense’ slur hurled at the Cabinet approved ordinance cannot apply only to the P.M. and His Ministers. Soniaji must also share responsibility.
Speaking to Barkha Dutt (NDTV) on board P.M’s Special Aircraft on his way back home, Dr. Manmohan Singh stressed that the Ordinance had been cleared at a meeting of senior Congress leaders including the Party President Sonia Gandhi, held on September 21. The victory that has come to the country by withdrawal of this illegal and immoral ordinance has thus been thanks only to the Rashtrapati, who has proved that U.P.A. would err seriously if it assumed that like most other Congressmen who had earlier occupied the high office of President, he too would remain a rubber stamp President !
The concluding paragraph of THE INDIAN EXPRESS editorial mentioned in the above blog reads as follows:
Manmohan Singh has ruled out the possibility of leaving office, but there is no missing the sense of resignation about the rest of his term. Rahul Gandhi has not followed up his ambush with a fuller explanation of his position on these bills. His views on matters of governance are unknown, but his capacity to disrupt the government’s decisions has been proven. Now, his silence will only seem louder and more suspenseful. Whether or not this move pays off politically for the Congress in the upcoming election, for its remaining term, its government has effectively lost face.
4 October, 2013