September 28, 2013 2:05:03 pm
In a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues,Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Friday chose to publicly castigate the UPA government for issuing an ordinance to negate the Supreme Court order on disqualifying convicted MPs and MLAs,terming it as complete nonsense that should be torn and thrown out.
The move,Congress strategists said,may help Rahul to distance himself from the UPA governments perceived omissions and commissions and go to the electorate with a clean image. But in the process,it delivered a blow to the image of the government as also that of Congress president Sonia Gandhi who was a part of the Congress core group meeting last Saturday which cleared the ordinance proposal.
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However,shortly after his surprise outburst at a press conference that was being addressed by the partys communications department chairman Ajay Maken,Rahul was learnt to have sent a letter to the PM saying that his comments had been made on the spur of the moment but also that he strongly believed in what he had said.
Rahuls intervention came a day after President Pranab Mukherjee had summoned the law minister,the home minister and the parliamentary affairs minister and was learnt to have asked them what the government would do if the Supreme Court struck the ordinance down.
The ministers,sources said,had come back late in the evening to discuss the matter with Sonia Gandhi and it was decided that the Cabinet should reconsider the ordinance after the Prime Ministers return and withdraw it.
While Rahul was not part of these discussions,he chose to make a dramatic intervention today as he walked into Makens press conference at the Press Club. He said that before coming there,he had spoken to Maken who gave him a political line about the ordinance that everybody will give you,the Congress will give you,the BJP will give you. My opinion on the ordinance is that it is complete nonsense. I think it should be torn up and thrown out. That is my opinion. My personal opinion on the ordinance. I will repeat it for you. My opinion on the ordinance is that it should be torn up and thrown away.
The arguments that are being made and I have heard the arguments,in my organisation the argument that is being made is that,we need to do this – internally,I am telling you what is happening internally – we need to do this because of
political considerations. Everybody does this. The Congress party does this,the BJP does this,Janata Dal does this,the Samajwadi does this and everybody does this. And there is a time to stop this nonsense, he said.
And I really feel it is about time that political parties,mine and all others,stop making these kind of compromises because if we want to actually fight corruption in this country,whether it is us the Congress party or the BJP,we cannot continue making these small compromises.
Because when we make these small compromises,then we compromise everything. So,that is my position on the ordinance. I am not interested in what any opposition leader says. I am interested in what the Congress party is doing,I am interested in what our government is doing and I feel,personally feel,what our government has done as far as this ordinance is concerned is wrong, Rahul added.
Congress sources said that the dramatic entry of Rahul to announce his disapproval was well-orchestrated.
On Thursday,in an unusual move,Maken decided to hold a press conference at the Press Club of India. It is very rare that any AICC functionary,not to speak of a party general secretary,holds a press briefing at the club. That Makens brief was limited to calling the press conference was evident as he started speaking in support of the ordinance until it was cut short by Rahuls entry.
Congress sources pointed out that all these years,Rahul has been consciously trying to distance himself from the UPA government,choosing not to voice his opinion on contentious issues while taking credit for welfare schemes. Even when invited to attend Congress core group meetings on crucial issues,sources said he deliberately stayed away,except on a couple of occasions such as when his issues like Telangana statehood and the Land Acquisition Bill came up for discussion.
A section of the Congress,however,disapproved of Rahuls snub to the Manmohan Singh government saying it had come too late. He has questioned the collective wisdom of the party leadership and the government by publicly denouncing it. But the President of India had already shown his inclination to stall the ordinance and the opposition parties had also taken the lead in opposing it, said a senior Congress leader.
Incidentally,Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily was the only one to express his reservation against the ordinance at Tuesdays Cabinet meeting that considered the proposal. It is not an appropriate time for this, Moily was learnt to have said.
Before the meeting,Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had called up the Prime Minister to express her reservation. Subsequently,Digvijaya Singh and Milind Deora also questioned the governments move. All these leaders are perceived to be close to Rahul.
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