New Delhi, Sep 27: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Friday dropped a political bombshell on an unsuspecting government, saying that the ordinance that it had sent up to the president to protect convicted lawmakers from disqualification, was “wrong”, should be “torn up and thrown away” and it was time to stop “this nonsense”.
In what came as a major embarassment for the Manmohan Singh government, especially when the prime minister was away in the US and had a summit meeting ahead (Friday mid-morning Washington time) with President Barack Obama, Gandhi trashed the ordinance in an unexpected appearance at the Press Club of India where Congress spokesman Ajay Maken was painstakingly defending it.
“What the government has done is wrong,” Gandhi told surprised journalists. He walked into the club as Maken, chairman of Congress communication department, was in the middle of his press interaction.
Apparently distancing himself from his party’s line on the controversial ordinance – sent by the cabinet to the president – that has evoked sharp response from sections of the opposition and the public at large, Gandhi said: “It is time to stop this nonsense.
“My opinion of the ordinance is that it is completely nonsense and should be torn up and thrown away.”
The dramatic prouncements were immediately termed as “grandstanding”, “a charade” and aimed at “damage control” by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, while the Left leader Gurudas Dasgupta said he was “baffled” by Rahul Gandhi’s comment.
Gandhi said the ordinance was born out of “political considerations” and it was time “political parties, including mine, should stop making these kind of compromises.
He said the ordinance was done out of “political considerations.
“Whether it is the Congress or the BJP, we cannot continue make these small compromises. I am not interested in what the Congress party is doing. I personally believe with what our government has done in this ordinance is wrong,” he emphasised.
The de facto number two in the party refused to take any other question, indicating that he had just come to give his “personal opinion” on the ordinance that was passed by the cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Tuesday. The cabinet took the decision a day before prime minister left for a five-day visit to the US.
As most journalists were surprised to see Rahul Gandhi, who rarely interacts with the media, he explained he was talking to Ajay Maken, the person in charge of the party’s media communication, who told him that he was going to speak on the ordinance to journalists.
“He gave me the line which every party would give you,” he said amidst laughter, and then went on to drop the bombshell that he thought the ordinance was wrong.
The ordinance is with President Pranab Mukherjee, who has already sought clarifications from Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Law Minister Kapil Sibal. The Manmohan Singh government has been facing flak for the ordinance that overturns the Supreme Court ruling that barred convicted MPs and legislators from contesting elections.
In a quick turnaround, Maken, who till moments ago was defending the ordinance, said the Congress was now opposed to it.
“Rahul Gandhi is our leader. His view is now the official view of the Congress party. Rahul Gandhi is an independent thinking person. If he opposes the ordinance, the Congress also opposes it,” he said as journalists thronged around him after Rahul Gandhi left.
Rahul Gandhi’s opinion, he said, was from a “moral point of view”.
“He does not want persons with criminal background to get elected to the parliament or state legislatures,” said Maken.
“Times have changed, people don’t want convicted persons to be there representatives,” he added.
Maken denied Gandhi’s statement was a public snub to the prime minister.
Hinting what could be the fate of the ordinance, Maken further said: “The view of the Congress should be supreme.”
The BJP Thursday had approached President Pranab Mukherjee and urged him not to sign the ordinance. The president has sought clarifications from Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Law Minister Kapil Sibal.