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Ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers killed on Gandhi Jayanti

Despite being under unprecedented fire from his political adversaries over the controversial ordinance and bill on convicted lawmakers, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday ensured its withdrawal by the union cabinet with ‘unanimity’. Contrary to the noises raised by the allies in the run-up to the cabinet meeting held on Wednesday evening, the cabinet passed a resolution with no dissent on the matter.

After the meeting, information minister Manish Tewari said the cabinet unanimously decided to withdraw the ordinance on convicted lawmakers. ‘The union cabinet today met in the evening and it was unanimously decided that we will withdraw the ordinance with regard to certain sections of Representation of People’s act,’ said Tiwari while addressing the media.

While criticising the way Rahul Gandhi raised the matter from a public forum denouncing his own party government, BJP welcomed the decision to withdraw the ordinance and the bill. Reacting to the decision, senior party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said it is the result of pressure created by his party, other political parties, civil society and media. He claimed that the BJP has been opposed to the bill from the very beginning.

Civil society leader and retired Supreme Court Judge N Santosh Hegde said that Rahul’s denunciation of the ordinance on convicted lawmakers has served public purpose though he may have made the statement for his party’s benefit on the back of adverse public opinion. ‘Rahul Gandhi may have made the dramatic statement in a different context... may be for the benefit of the party. But, ultimately, it has served the public purpose (forcing the government to withdraw the ordinance),’ he said.

Ahead of the cabinet meeting, prime minister Manmohan Singh talked to allies, informing them about the intent to withdraw the controversial ordinance on convicted lawmakers. Among the allies Singh contacted were NCP chief Sharad Pawar and RLD leader Ajit Singh, sources said.

Singh also consulted Attorney General GE Vahanvati over the issue. Ajit Singh said he is in favour of withdrawal of the ordinance as also the bill which seeks to protect convicted lawmakers from immediate disqualification.

The fate of the ordinance seemed pre-ordained after Rahul had turned it down as ‘nonsense’. He met the PM on Wednesday morning and reportedly expressed his regret for the timing and language of his public censure, but emphasised his staunch opposition to ordinance, which has been seen as the reason for the government’s decision to withdraw it.

The core group, that included party chief Sonia Gandhi, her political secretary Ahmed Patel and the prime minister besides home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde discussed this issue in a meeting at Singh’s residence. The group is believed to have agreed that it would be better for the government to withdraw the ordinance in view of public sentiments against it.

After this, Singh visited President Pranab Mukherjee and reportedly informed him of his decision to withdraw the ordinance.  The President had expressed serious reservations about the ordinance when it was sent to him for his assent last week. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad described the day’s developments as ‘the theatre of the absurd’. He said, ‘This confirms what the BJP has been saying. That the PM and cabinet are not important. Dynasty is.’
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