Press Trust of India
New Delhi, 2 October
The government may be all set to withdraw the controversial ordinance on convicted lawmakers with the Congress Core Group poring over the matter in the wake of Mr Rahul Gandhi’s denunciation of the Cabinet move last week.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who returned home after a week-long visit to the USA when Mr Gandhi publicly trashed the ordinance, received the Congress Vice-President at his residence this morning before a meeting of the Congress Core Group.
The Core Group, that included party chief Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister besides Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Ahmed Patel discussed the issue. The meeting is believed to have felt that it would be better for the government to withdraw the ordinance in view of public sentiments against it.
With Mr Gandhi making a public issue of it, the option for the government appeared very little, sources said.
Armed with the Core Group 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’s thinking on the issue.
The Union Cabinet meeting in the evening is expected to take a call on the issue that may seal the fate of the ordinance that seeks to protect MPs and MLAs from immediate disqualification in case of conviction by a court of law.
The Cabinet cleared the ordinance after a 10 July Supreme Court order 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 and continue to hold the post.
All pros and cons were discussed in the Core Group and a decision was left to the Union Cabinet which is meeting in the evening, highly placed party sources said after the hour-long meeting headed by Mrs Gandhi.
Mr Mukherjee, to whom the ordinance was sent last week, is said to have reservations and had called three ministers, including Law Minister Kapil Sibal raising queries.
In the morning, when Mr Gandhi met the Prime Minister, he is understood to have explained the reasons for opposing the ordinance and his reservations over the move to protect convicted lawmakers.
On the way back from the USA, the Prime Minister told reporters accompanying him that he would try to find out the reason why Mr Gandhi made a public statement and “why it had to be done that way”.
Mr Gandhi had earlier this week said at a Press conference that the ordinance is “complete nonsense” and should be “torn up and thrown away”.
Making it clear that he was not undermining Mr Singh’s authority in any way, the Congress Vice-President had also written a letter to the Prime Minister the same day, saying that he has the “greatest admiration” for his leadership in extremely difficult circumstances.
Many saw Mr Gandhi’s outburst on the ordinance as an embarrassment for the Prime Minister and the Opposition vociferously demanded that Mr Singh should step down after his return. Mr Singh also ruled out his resignation.
Notwithstanding the pressure on Congress in view of Mr Gandhi’s stand, the UPA allies like NCP are miffed over the way the issue was raked up by Mr Gandhi that had undermined the both the government and the Prime Minister.
NCP and National Conference ministers may make their views plain at the Cabinet meeting though they may go ahead with the consensus on the ordinance issue.