Buckling under all-round pressure,including from some UPA allies,the Union Cabinet on Wednesday decided to withdraw the controversial ordinance on convicted MPs and MLAs. In a surprise move,the Cabinet also decided to withdraw the Bill pending in parliament on the issue,though it was not on the agenda.
The decision of the Cabinet,which met here under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,to withdraw the Representation of People (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance,2013,which is now with Rashtrapati Bhawan for presidential assent,will be conveyed in writing to President Pranab Mukherjee,with a request to return the ordinance unsigned.
Sources said Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal moved the proposal to withdraw the Representation of People (Amendment and Validation) Bill,2013,which was referred to the department-related parliamentary standing committee on law last week. The logic behind this move was that since there was a growing perception in the public that the government was trying to protect convicted lawmakers through the Bill,such a move would only work against the UPA constituents.
NCP leader and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is learnt to have taken exception to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi public outburst against the ordinance last week,saying institutions like the Cabinet and their decisions must not be undermined in such a manner. He is also learnt to have said that the views of the opposition should have been taken before finalising the ordinance. Failure to do so,he said,has left the government exposed to the charge of trying to protect convicted lawmakers.
Some Congress minister explained that before the decision to introduce the Bill in the Rajya Sabha was taken,two rounds of discussions were held with key opposition leaders,particularly those from the BJP. The ministers accused the BJP of going back on its word,first promising to support the Bill,only to question its propriety later.
Earlier in the day,Congress president Sonia Gandhi chaired a meeting of the party core group to consider various options,in the light of Rahul public denunciation of the ordinance. Party leaders present at the meeting are learnt to have favoured withdrawal of the ordinance.
Before the core group meeting,Rahul met the Prime Minister,who returned home yesterday after a week-long visit to the US.
Armed with the core groups opinion,the Prime Minister called on President Pranab Mukherjee,who left on a two-nation tour in the afternoon,to apprise him of the government thinking on the issue.
The government was pushed into a corner on the issue after the President summoned three senior UPA ministers last week to convey his unease over the ordinance. Mukherjee also asked the ministers about the constitutionality of issuing the ordinance on a matter that the parliament was already seized of.
The ordinance sought to negate the Supreme Court July 10 order on immediate disqualification of convicted MPs and MLAs. The Supreme Court had struck down a section in the Representation of the People Act which gave a three-month breather to lawmakers to approach a higher court for appeal after conviction.