Under pressure from principal opposition party; the BJP, from Aam Aadmi Party (the party of tinkers and masons) and civil society activists, the President of India, Pranab Mukerjhee, has sought clarification from senior ministers Thursday, 26 September, 2013, about his government bringing an ordinance that allowed convicted lawmakers to hold on to their seats in Parliament and state legislatures. The BJP earlier asked the President to return back the ordinance to the Union Cabinet.
Meanwhile taking the clue and gauging the public opinion and mood within his party, INC Vice President, Rahul Gandhi, said Friday that the concerned ordinance is a complete nonsense and that it should be torn up and thrown away. He also said that he believed that the government approach in this regard was wrong.
To remind the readers about the issue, the apex court had ordered in July this year disqualification of convicted lawmakers’ memberships from legislatures. The order literally barred tainted and convicted lawmakers from holding public office and also prohibited them continuing their membership of legislatures, if they were proven guilty and sentenced to jail for two or more years. The Union government failingly; in the present context, tried to save the skin of many of its allies and partners. But after Mr. Gandhi’s open outbursts and complete rejection, there is not even the faintest of chance of the Union Cabinet sticking to its decision and continuing with the ordinance.
Reacting strongly to Mr. Gandhi’s remarks, the BJP demanded that the Prime Minister must resign. Dr. Singh replied rather coolly and told the Indian media in Washington DC, where he was to have one-to-one meeting with the US President Barack Obama the same day, that he would take up the matter with the Cabinet after returning back to India in the first week of October. For all practical reasons the ordinance should be considered withdrawn and order quashed.
What is happening in New Delhi? On surface it may appear that the INC is projecting Mr. Gandhi as a messiah and trying to put blame for all failures on Dr. Singh who now does not hold much chance of getting the third term, should the UPA is returned back to power in New Delhi after the 2014 general elections. But this may go wrong. The story may be completely different altogether.
The first possibility is the legal issue in the sense that probably executives have realized that they have overstepped their authority by overruling the Supreme Court (SC) verdict where otherwise the apex court should have full authority. It is also possible that the government’s counsels, the attorney-general and the solicitor-general may not have supported the move. Or minimally, it sets a bad precedent in New Delhi power circle, just like the Shah Bano case in which Rajiv Gandhi-led Union government changed the decision of the SC about the female being given compensation after divorce along with alimony by amending the Constitution. The INC lost the subsequent general elections badly, sure, mostly because of kickback scandal of infamous Bofors case. Corruption would be a very hot and relevant issue in the upcoming elections too.
Had Mr. Gandhi not objected and hypothetically, if the President had returned the ordinance back to the cabinet but the cabinet had resent it, the President would have no option but to sign it to make it into a temporary executive law, even if the Cabinet did not change the basic wordings of the ordinance slightly.
The second possibility is that the INC might have calculated the issuing of ordinance costly in its pursuit of seeking mandate in Assemblies and the Parliamentary elections, even if the ordinance stood the legal ground. Obviously, the government was compelled to overturn the SC order to save skin of some of its allies and partners.
Now there is a distinct possibility that the government may have reached a quid pro quo arrangement vis-à-vis the SC to save the latter’s verdict and also save its tainted allies and partners for a while. The SC could change the tone of its verdict or minimally give some relaxation to the Union government. Therefore, in all likelihood, specifically speaking, Laloo Prasad Yadav’s membership of the Parliament would be saved and so would be some of the other tainted allies and the Union government would revoke its order by annulling the ordinance.
Speaking differently, the ordinance would have been otherwise rejected by the SC anyway by reminding the Union government about it tress-passing its authority and former unquestionable say on the matter. The government created a degree of uncertainty by questioning the authority of the SC and then appears to have bargained with it. It appears to be a very calculated and shrewd move by Dr. Singh and his team. Mr. Gandhi just helped the cause by gaining something for the party, politically. By all accounts Mr. Gandhi, it appears, has become a seasoned politician and the whole episode shows that Dr. Singh has mastered the art of political-diplomacy.
The punishment to tainted lawmakers in corruption cases would be partial return of their theft of the public money. The corruption is so universal in India and also in the entire subcontinent that there is little a government can do, no matter how neat its intentions were. Dr. Singh’s government is anyway proven corrupt and involved in so many scams.
Pardoning powerful and saving skins of allies and partners is any way completely normal and acceptable as per Indian laws. As far as Mr. Gandhi is concerned he is senior enough and also arrogant enough to get involved in the decision making. If he was not involved then his mom Sonia Gandhi should have been involved. There is not much point in painting Dr. Singh as a failure as the INC is hell bent on seeking minorities’ votes and Dr. Singh is one of them and successful too. There does not appear any chance of Dr. Singh resigning from the office as no INC leader of any worth would demand that from him.