Ordinance on convicted lawmakers: Manmohan proposes, Rahul disposes

Rahul Gandhi dropped a bombshell on Friday which left his party leaders scurrying for cover.

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2013, 23:22 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Manisha Singh

New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi who is usually seen as a `reluctant` politician and as someone who has been unable to successfully connect with the masses, dropped a bombshell on Friday which left his party leaders scurrying for cover. It has also brought the fault-lines between the UPA government and the Congress party to the fore.

Literally pulling the rug from under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s feet, Rahul categorically told the press, without mincing words, that the government was wrong in clearing the ordinance that sought to save convicted lawmakers from disqualification. He did not stop at this. In a language that many thought was a bit harsh as far as dealing with the Congress-led UPA government, Rahul added that the ordinance should be torn and thrown away as it was `nonsense`.

Predictably the main Opposition the BJP attacked the 43-year-old leader and said that his reaction was a little belated and termed it as grandstanding and that if Rahul thinks that the government`s move was wrong then those who were party to it must be sacked. However, questions are being asked as to what compelled Rahul to take the stand that he did today. Congress leaders backing Rahul may say that he means business and is for clean politics and has a grand vision for the country. But the fact is that many feel that Rahul, who had not taken on the PM publicly in the past, did what he did simply for political gains.

The Congress-led UPA governement had been criticised from all quarters for bringing in the controversial ordinance. The Aam Aadmi Party had denounced the move and the BJP had met President Pranab Mukherjee yesterday asking him not to sign in the ordinance which they termed it as unconstitutional. In such a scenario, probably Rahul and his so-called coterie realised that if they had to save their face and if they had to take the winds out of the sails of the Opposition, the Congress vice president had to take a stand and fast.

Before Rahul made his statement today, other Congress leaders had also expressed their dissent over the ordinance. Union Minister Milind Deora had tweeted yesterday that the move to bring the ordinance could endanger the already eroding public faith in democracy and senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh had also expressed his reservations on the ordinance to negate the Supreme Court judgment. Both these men are reportedly said to be close to be Rahul and so it will not be misplaced to say that the Congress vice president was probably advised by his close group to take the stand that he did. And then there was the growing public pressure.

The Congress is already besieged by a series of scams and corruption charges and has been accused of policy paralysis. To top this, it is facing a decade of anti-incumbency going into the next General Elections. At a time like this, Rahul and his men in all likelihood realised that to cancel out the high moral ground that the Opposition had taken and to project that the Congress vice president meant business, this was their trump card. It would also showcase all that here was a man who was not afraid to take on his own party and government.

And if it embarrasses the PM in the process then so be it. After all in all likelihood Manmohan Singh is not going to be Congress` PM candidate and Rahul desperately needed to tell the people of this country that he is in-charge and is a decisive leader. Also, as per reports, Rahul was not particularly keen that RJD chief and an ally of the Congress Lalu Prasad Yadav who may be convicted in the fodder scam is seen to be protected by the grand old party.

But the other question is – will Rahul benefit politically from what he did today. He may have been successful in conveying the message to his partymen, who are clamouring for him to lead them, in the face of growing popularity of BJP`s PM candidate Narendra Modi, that the winds of change are blowing and he may have been successful in stumping the Opposition for a while, but then the long-term impact remains to be seen. Clearly, the last word on the contentious ordinance has not been heard and more is surely likely to come.