On Friday Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi announced his emergence rejecting as “complete nonsense” the ordinance to save convicted legislators from disqualification. Rahul Gandhi’s intemperate criticism of the government effectively put the controversial ordinance on convicted legislators on hold: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, away in the United States on a bilateral visit, was forced to issue a statement from Washington.
Rahul said: “I’ll tell you what my opinion on the ordinance is. It’s complete nonsense. It should be torn up and thrown away. That is my personal opinion.”
He repeated the comment for emphasis and followed that up by attacking the government for persisting with efforts to bring the ordinance. “I am interested in what the Congress 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,” said the Congress vice-president who, it later transpired, had written to the PM to express his displeasure.
This isn’t the first time the Gandhi scion has publicly disagreed with UPA policy, be it on tribal rights or fighting Maoist insurgency. But in the past, he could do so as just another Congress MP (or at least pretending to be the same). He is now the Congress party vice-president, second only to his own mother. Why did his party still go ahead and support the ordinance despite his strong objections? Did he fail to make the case within his party before the ordinance was passed? Or is he so weak that his party leadership overrode his resistance? If so, all Rahul has proved is that he is a weak leader, unable to steer his party in the direction of his choice.
Mr Gandhi is the scion of India’s powerful Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and is tipped to be a future prime minister. In January, he was appointed the Congress party’s vice-president.
Congress chief spokesperson Ajay Maken was busy defending the ordinance when Rahul hijacked the platform to tear it to shreds. Minutes after Rahul left, Maken changed his tune saying Rahul’s views were the party’s views and it was virtually the end of the ordinance. “He is our leader and when he has aired his views those become the views of the party”: the remark powerfully emphasizing the shift of power within the party.
The ordinance, which is pending with President Pranab Mukherjee, is likely to die a natural death with the PM indicating from Washington that the Cabinet would seek its withdrawal after his return next week.
Elected members facing charges: Among 4,807 total MPs and MLAs, 30% or 1460 are declared criminal cases and 14% or 688 are declared serious criminal cases.