NEW DELHI: Forced by Rahul Gandhi’s open trashing of the government, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday decided to withdraw the controversial ordinance on convicted lawmakers as well as a related bill in the face of mounting public opinion against the measure.
In a business-like 20-minute meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Cabinet overturned its earlier decision of September 24 to provide immunity to convicted lawmakers from immediate disqualification.
The reversal by the Cabinet is seen as a rare instance of the government being forced to take back a measure that was cleared after much deliberations in the ruling party and the Council of ministers after resistance from within.
The decision came on a day of hectic consultations at the highest levels in the Congress party, allies and the government on how to bring a closure to the raging controversy after Rahul’s denunciation of the ordinance as “complete nonsense” that deserved to be “torn and thrown away”.
“The Union Cabinet at its meeting today unanimously decided that both the ordinance with regards to certain sections of the Representation of the People Act as well as the Bill would be withdrawn”, information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari told reporters.
He claimed that the decision was reversed as the government was sensitive to public opinion and was not authoritarian in nature.
At the meeting, NCP leader Sharad Pawar is understood to have criticised the events leading to the reversal of the Cabinet decision, an apparent reference Rahul’s public outburst.
He felt that institutions were being undermined when the decision on overturning the July 10 Supreme Court order which withdrew the immunity for convicted lawmakers.
Another ally, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was also critical of the way Rahul condemned the government in public, undermining not just the Prime Minister, but the whole Cabinet.
The cabinet’s decision to withdraw the ordinance is a triumph of people power. On September 27, The Times of India launched a campaign against the ordinance, which sought to overturn a Supreme Court judgment disqualifying MP and MLAs convicted for crimes punishable with a jail term of two years or more.
The public response to the campaign was phenomenal. On the very first day, more than 1.5 lakh people joined the campaign. On the second day, the number of people supporting the campaign rose to 5 lakh. It went on to cross 7.26 lakh in five days. Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi sensing the public anger, called the ordinance “nonsense”. In the end, the government has been forced to surrender to the public mood. We thank all the readers who supported the campaign. Congratulations, India.