In a major embarrassment to the UPA government, Rahul Gandhi on Friday denounced the controversial ordinance to negate the Supreme Court verdict on convicted lawmakers as “complete nonsense” and said what “our government has done is wrong“.
Making a surprise brief appearance at a meet-the-press programme of his party’s general secretary Ajay Maken at the Press Club in New Delhi, he said the ordinance should be “torn up and thrown away”.
Storming into the programme, the Congress vice-president said before coming there he asked Mr. Maken about what was happening and Mr. Maken gave him a political line about the ordinance that “everybody will give you, the Congress will give you, the BJP will give you“.
“Now, I will tell you what is my opinion on the ordinance. It is complete nonsense, it should be torn up and thrown away. It is my personal opinion,” he said.
Mr. Rahul said that the arguments given in “my organisation” is that “we need to do this because of political considerations. Everybody is doing this. The Congress does this, the BJP does this, the Samajwadi Party, the JD(U) does this.”
“It is time to stop this nonsense, political parties, mine and all others....If you want to fight corruption in the country whether it is Congress Party or BJP, we cannot continue making these small compromises. Because if we make these small compromises, then we compromise everywhere.”
At this point, Mr. Rahul got up from his seat to leave the venue but when journalists persisted, he resumed his seat as a barrage of questions flowed.
“I am interested in what the Congress party is doing and what our government is doing. That is why what our government has done as far as this ordinance is concerned is wrong,” he said and left the venue.
After he left, Mr. Maken, who heads the Congress media department, said, “What Rahul Gandhi has said is our party policy“.
Mr. Rahul’s dramatic and open denunciation of the ordinance comes a day after President Pranab Mukherjee called three ministers -- Home, Law and Parliamentary Affairs -- and raised questions over the need for an ordinance on an issue on which there was no political consensus.
The President is understood to have asked the ministers what was the urgency to bring an ordinance when there was a bill already pending before Parliament on the issue.
Government spokespersons have been maintaining that there was an all-party consensus on the need for a bill to negate the Supreme Court judgement that struck down a provision in the electoral law which allowed a convicted MP and MLA to continue in their post if they make an appeal to a higher court within three months.
The all-party meeting was held on August 13 in which the government claimed that the main opposition BJP was also in favour of the legislation to negate the Supreme Court judgement.
However, after the Union Cabinet cleared the ordinance on Tuesday, the BJP and the Left parties have attacked it as "unconstitutional and immoral”. Many civil society members and organisations also opposed the ordinance.
Yesterday a high-level BJP delegation led by L K Advani met the President and urged him to return it to the government for reconsideration.