Pushed into a corner after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhis public criticism,the Cabinet on Wednesday decided to withdraw the controversial ordinance on convicted MPs and MLAs. The Cabinet,which met for about 20 minutes,also decided to withdraw the Bill pending in Parliament on the issue,though it was not on the agenda.
Earlier in the day,Congress president Sonia Gandhi chaired a meeting of the partys core group,where leaders are learnt to have favoured withdrawal of the ordinance. Rahul met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,who returned from the US on Tuesday night,before the Core Group meeting.
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 governments thinking.
The Cabinets decision to withdraw the Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance,2013,which is now with Rashtrapati Bhawan,will be conveyed in writing to the President,with a request to return the ordinance unsigned.
The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill,2013,will be withdrawn by union Law Minister Kapil Sibal when Parliament convenes for the winter session next month. Sources said Sibal moved the proposal to withdraw the Bill,which was referred to the department-related parliamentary standing committee on law last week. It was felt that since there was a growing perception that the government was trying to protect convicted lawmakers through the Bill,it would work against the UPA constituents.
The withdrawal of the ordinance seemed imminent after Rahul publicly denounced it last week,saying it was complete nonsense and deserved to be torn and thrown out. He said this a day after the President summoned three senior UPA ministers to convey his unease on the issue,and asked them about the constitutionality of issuing an ordinance on a matter which is already before the parliament.
At the Cabinet meeting today,which was chaired by the Prime Minister,NCP leader and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is learnt to have taken exception to Rahuls public outburst,saying institutions like the Cabinet and its decisions must not be undermined in such a manner. He is also learnt to have said that the Oppositions views should have been sought before finalising the ordinance.
Pawar is reported to have said that important decisions like the ordinance should not be pushed hastily. This,he said,had left the government exposed to the charge of trying to protect convicted lawmakers.
National Conference leader and Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah was also critical of the way Rahul opposed the ordinance in public,undermining not just the Prime Minister,but the whole cabinet.
Some Congress ministers 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.
The ordinance sought to negate the Supreme Courts 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 providing a three-month breather to lawmakers to approach a higher court for appeal after conviction.
9:30 am: Rahul Gandhi meets PM Manmohan Singh
11 am: Cong Core Group meets; leaders favour
withdrawal of ordinance
1 pm: PM calls on President Pranab Mukherjee
6 pm: Union cabinet meets,decides to withdraw both
ordinance and Bill