President Pranab Mukherjee weighed in to change the government’s mind, conveying his strong disapproval of the move to ministers who called on him earlier in the day to get him on board, according to sources.
While the ordinances were not formally placed as an agenda item at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, they came up in the course of discussions. “It was generally felt that the normal legislative route should be followed in the case of anti-corruption legislations, primarily because they require a full-fledged debate by Parliament,” said a source present at the meeting.
Sources added that although the Cabinet could meet once more before the code of conduct kicks in, the government wouldn’t propose any ordinance whatsoever.
Apart from the propriety of bringing ordinances on poll-eve, said sources, Mukherjee also pointed out some “technical” issues. The fact that this government would bring an ordinance when 15th Lok Sabha is still alive and then leave it for the next government and the next Lok Sabha to ratify it was not considered proper. The President was said to have discussed all these aspects with Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde when they called on him.
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After this meeting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held consultations with senior ministers and party leaders, before finally deciding to drop the ordinance plan, to avoid the possible embarrassment of seeing Rashtrapati Bhavan sit over the ordinances.
These issues had been flagged at the Congress core group meeting on Friday evening as well, with the Law Ministry expressing reservations over the “urgency” for ordinances on the eve of general elections. However, the top guns of the government had then chosen to put these concerns aside in deference to Rahul’s wish.
A section of the ruling Congress also believes that the indelible image of the UPA government bending and crawling to the Congress vice-president’s whims and fancies would only harm the party in the forthcoming elections. Rather than emerging as a leader who could question, defy and deride the system that was developed and nurtured even by his mother Sonia Gandhi — as planned and projected — Rahul, said sources, was coming across as an “irresponsible leader who loved to show off his authority even at the expense of the Prime Minister’s, a leader who would tear an ordinance on convicted lawmakers one day and shake hands with Lalu Prasad the next day”.
“These anti-corruption ordinances, if promulgated, would have badly boomeranged on Rahul and the entire Congress. (Narendra) Modi, I am sure, would have loved to see the Cabinet toeing Rahul’s line once again,” said a senior Congress leader and minister.