In the Congress circles, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi is known as a strong supporter of wider consultations on key issues. But on Friday, Gandhi's political ambush on the ordinance on convicted lawmakers took everyone by surprise as no one had any hint of his move to publicly trample a Union cabinet decision.
But the momentum was building up during the past few days. Party sources said, for past few days Gandhi was gathering feedback from key aides, activists and legal experts on the adverse effect the ordinance may have on poll-bound Congress that already faces a series of corruption charges.
"A strong appeal also came from Delhi Congress which felt the ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers is bound to have a severe impact in the upcoming assembly poll," said a senior Congress strategist. Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit was among the first top Congress leaders to openly criticise the ordinance.
In the meeting with three cabinet ministers on Thursday evening, President Pranab Mukherjee also expressed his unhappiness over the issue. He reportedly posed questions over the propriety and morality and his views were conveyed to the party brass promptly. Sources close to Gandhi said, these inputs also added as impetus for the Congress vice president.
Top party sources claim that Mukherjee had made it clear to the senior ministers that his assent to the ordinance will not come easily, given the public mood against corruption.
On Friday, Gandhi chaired a meeting on Odisha and Jharkhand in party headquarters in Akbar Road before he looked for Congress communications department chief Ajay Maken. Gandhi spoke to him over phone and took the impromptu decision to join Maken's press meet to slam the ordinance.
Sources added that in close quarters, Gandhi had been talking about the negative feedback he is receiving on the ordinance. This perhaps prompted Gandhi's close pal Milind Deora to tweet against it.
Gandhi's bolt from the blue found the party temporarily clueless. Even in the evening, top leaders called each other to formulate the finer details of the "party line" on ordinance and to ensure that all party spokespersons appearing on TV sing the same tune.