Days after the Cabinet opted against taking the ordinance route to bring in anti-graft measures, Union minister Salman Khurshid today indicated that the advice of President Pranab Mukherjee had been sought in the matter and that in such cases, the government must bow to his wishes.
“Should you not have a communication with the President? The President is after all the head of the country, he is like a father figure for the country. If you want something done, why should you not go and take his advice,” he told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN’s ‘Devil’s Advocate’ programme.
Khurshid was asked if senior government ministers had met the President to ascertain his mood on the issue of ordinances. The minister said that legislation, ordinances or important decisions for the country could not be taken without keeping the President in the loop and without having the President’s approval.
Thus, on the issue of ordinances, it was the perception of the President that mattered, Khurshid said. “Finally, it has to be the President’s perception… What you consider to be extremely urgent and important and requiring immediate action, if he thinks that is not so, we must bow to his wishes,” he said.
Asked whether the government had gone by the President’s advice by not bringing the ordinances, he said, “I’ve no idea, I am just saying we always bow to the President’s wishes.” The Union Cabinet had last Sunday rejected the ordinance route for a set of anti-corruption measures despite pressure from Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for bringing such laws. It was believed that the decision was influenced by the apprehension that the President would not give his assent.
Khurshid refuted suggestions that the government was trying to set an agenda for the next Parliament and said it would be completely sovereign, free and autonomous to take a decision.
Talking about Rahul, Khurshid said the Congress Vice President does not direct the Cabinet to function in a particular way. “He (Rahul) does certainly indicate what the party policy preferences are. If you give me a good suggestion and I accept it, it doesn’t mean I am subjecting the Cabinet decision to yours,” he said.
As to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, he said she is not a member of the Cabinet, but heads the UPA and is also the President of the Congress party. “Rahul Gandhi is the Vice President of Congress. The second-most powerful person in Congress if you look at the hierarchy.
The government is of the UPA, of an alliance that is led by the Congress party,” he said when asked about the perception that Rahul was the boss while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh only obeyed. “Rahul Gandhi is the boss. But Rahul Gandhi, please understand, has conducted himself with the utmost dignity and care for the office and constitutional position of our Prime Minister,” he said.
On the issue of extending reservation for Jats, Khurshid said that an anomalous situation had existed wherein only states were giving benefits to the community which they were not getting at the central level.
He was asked about his views that the government ignored National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC)’s recommendations in the matter. “If you are saying they (Jats) are not backward, then the backward classes commission should have recommended that they be removed from the backwards’ list of the states,” he said.
On his “impotent” barb against BJP’s Prime Ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, he said, “You say that you are not culpable and responsible in criminal law for what happened in Gujarat. Fine. Let’s not argue about that. But I’ll say something else. If you are not culpable in criminal law, you are certainly responsible for what happened and a person in office who is unable to deliver justice, what do I call that person?”