Govt withdraws ordinance, Bill on lawmakers
New Delhi, October 2
Capping a day preceded by consultations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired the Cabinet meeting followed by Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari’s announcement that the Cabinet had unanimously decided to withdraw both the ordinance, with regard to certain sections of the Representation of the People Act, and the Bill. The Bill can be pulled back during the next session of Parliament.
“Having regard to various concerns that have been expressed in relation to the validity and advisability of the proposed ordinance seeking to amend the Representation of People’s Act, the Cabinet has decided to withdraw the proposal for promulgating the ordinance as well as the Bill,” an official statement said.
The fate of the ordinance, cleared on September 24, was sealed after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi rubbished it publically, suggesting it should be “torn and thrown away”. The outburst altered the discourse both within the Congress and the Cabinet, whose members, till then, were stoutly defending the move.
While almost all political parties - those in the ruling coalition and in the Opposition - felt such an ordinance was not required, UPA allies, including the Nationalist Congress Party, questioned the manner in which the collective decision was sought to be overturned.
Sources privy to discussions said party leader Sharad Pawar sought to know the reason why the decision was being reversed, suggesting it would be better in the future that the process of consultation is completed before any matter is brought to the Cabinet for its consideration.
Prior to the September 24 decision, the UPA government moved a Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament to nullify the July 10 order of the Supreme Court after suggestions emanated to that effect at all-party meetings. The Bill was referred to a standing committee for scrutiny after resistance to its early passage.
A day before Prime Minister left for the US, the Cabinet requested President Pranab Mukherjee to promulgate the ordinance in pursuance of a Congress Core Group September 21 decision, but hit a roadblock when the BJP-led Opposition petitioned the President against signing it.
The Aam Aadmi Party, too, made a similar pitch that was shadowed by the high-voltage attack by Rahul. Party sources said Rahul articulated his thoughts on the issue while expressing regret for its timing.
9.45 AM RAHUL MEETS PM
Rahul Gandhi meets PM at his 7 Race Course Road residence; explains position on ordinance; ‘expresses regret’
11.30 AM CONG CORE GROUP MEETS
Congress Core Group, inlcuding Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her political secretary Ahmed Patel assembles at 7 RCR; decides to withdraw the controverisal ordinance
12.30 PM PM MEETS PRESIDENT
The Prime Minister meets President Pranab Mukherjee and briefs him about the development; the President later leaves on a two-nation tour
4.30 PM PM SPEAKS TO ALLIES
PM speaks to allies on the ordinance, some of whom earlier expressed reservation over the manner in which it was dealt with
6 PM ordinance dropped
Cabinet meets and decides to withdraw the ordinance
New Delhi, October 2
What remained unsaid was that the public charge by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi torpedoed the ordinance, especially through his comment that the UPA Government had done a wrong, a decision that he characterised as a “complete nonsense and be torn and thrown away”.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the largest party in the ruling coalition, expressed through its chief spokesperson DP Tripathi that the NCP was an ally and not a follower, the thrust of the argument being that while the principle against protecting law makers was not contested, the approach was disagreeable. “Rahul Gandhi is free to say anything or express anything as far as the policies and programmes of the Congress are concerned. But the government led by Dr Manmohan Singh is not the Congress government, it is the UPA government,” Tripathi said.
Another senior party leader and Union Minister Tariq Anwar felt that had any person other than Rahul raised this matter in the Congress, he would have, perhaps, not been forgiven. “Perhaps this is the reason, a special Cabinet meeting has been called. All issues will be discussed,” he said.
National Conference leader and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah was candid in suggesting that Rahul was “advised wrongly”.
“I think someone must have advised him on this. I think, they advised him wrongly. While the PM was out, he should have waited for him to come back, then put his point of view directly. That would have been the right way. ... I hope there will be better advisers in future and he will consult other UPA constituents ... find better ways of taking things forward”. Another ally, the Rashtriya Lok Dal chiefAjit Singh supported the move and said the party was always opposed to the law that would have protected convicted lawmakers.
However, a key outside supporter Samajwadi Party felt the move was a “conspiracy against democracy” suggesting withdrawal of the ordinance will send a message of an individual being bigger than the government.
Party MP Naresh Aggarwal said: “Samajwadi Party requests the Prime Minister that he should remain firm on the ordinance that the government has brought. It should remain firm on it as it was brought after due consideration. This message should not go in the country that it was withdrawn under pressure of one individual,” Aggarwal said.