The Congress Core Committee’s so-called ‘unanimous’ decision to rescind the ordinance intended to protect convicted legislators from being ousted from politics is a palliative that comes way too late in the day to be actually deemed path-breaking. While the ordinance itself, a union cabinet agenda, was against the wider public mood, it was also thoroughly unconstitutional to merit a real public debate. Insofar as Rahul Gandhi had sensed and voiced the public sentiment, the stance was as much a part of the Congress vice-president’s ambition to stand up on his own right and emerge as a veritable alternative to Narendra Modi’s relentless campaign as the country’s only worthy prime ministerial candidate, as it was equally laced in the Gandhi scion’s attempt to re-establish that even if the government can get it wrong, the Congress’ first family just cannot. So backtracking the ordinance, which in any case was an outright travesty of the constitution and parliamentary democracy as such, is actually less an achievement on Rahul’s part, and more a course correction to steer back the wheel of political fortune in Congress-led UPA’s favour. The fact that Rahul has not been alone in condemning the ill-advised ordinance and even President Pranab Mukherjee had expressed reservations about the forced pill, owing to its unconstitutionality and absolute disregard of the national mood, is something that must not get drowned in the collective cheer for Ragul Gandhi’s ‘dauntless’ and ‘self-compromising’ decision to debunk the ordinance theory exactly when it was being touted as the cabinet’s unchallenged authority over the people. It is not for nothing that Rahul had timed his outburst to coincide with Manmohan Singh’s US visit, clearly limiting the possibility of a comprehensive counterattack from the headless union cabinet, which, furthermore was carrying out the wishes of Congress Core Committee (that includes the Congress president Sonia Gandhi) in the first place.
Clearly, what has been achieved after the brouhaha dies down is the rejection of an extremely undemocratic and unparliamentary legislation that was aimed at further bolstering the already massive impunities enjoyed by the political fraternity. Moreover, the ordinance was also a blatant dismissal of the fact that politics in India has become infested with a culture of criminalisation from the highest to the lowest of levels, with the entire administrative and state machinery operating on the corrosive fuels of corruption, nepotism, fraudulence and dishonesty in every sphere of operation. Not only would the ordinance have been a major setback to the slow but crucial cycle of electoral reforms unleashed by the judiciary and civil society activists, it would have also meant that national and state level politics were condemned to carry on with hoodlums masquerading as statesmen and public leaders. Despite being crowd-pullers and ministers with popular electoral mandates, the fact remains that the likes of Lalu Prasad had been allowed to continue in office and later have an active political career as Member of Parliament, even though they had been accused of embezzling public funds. Hence, although it makes sense to grab the lifeline offered up by Rahul’s unwavering stance, we need to get past the habit of using public figures as political crutches to implement rules that are the need of the hour or change those that are against the spirit of the republic.