Last October, days after he publicly rubbished an ordinance to protect convicted criminals as “complete nonsense”, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had admitted, “In hindsight, I might have used wrong words but the sentiment I felt was not wrong.”
Last Sunday, the emerging super power of the Congress perhaps realised that in lawmaking not just intentions but implementation too, has to be right.
This realisation might have come after President Pranab Mukherjee refused to pass at least four key anti-graft laws through the ordinance route in an election season.
Union law minister Kapil Sibal – perhaps the only cabinet minister to have hosted Mukherjee (when he was a cabinet colleague) for a meal at home – remains Mukherjee’s favourite legal brain.
But Sibal also earns Mukherjee’s ire whenever the octogenarian sees a deviation from the standard norms of lawmaking. Mukherjee had once quipped at a closed-door meeting, “The problem of the UPA is that there are too many legal experts. There is Kapil, there is Salman (Khurshid) and then there are other legal luminaries!”
No matter how many legal luminaries there are in the government, the President always consults top-notch legal experts before framing his decisions on key issues such as ordinances.
This time, he had the government scrambling for cover to hide its embarrassment when Mukherjee flatly refused to toe the line.
Rahul Gandhi had openly pitched for ordinances on anti-corruption laws, saying at a recent rally, “The Opposition does not want to support us in passing the anti-corruption bills. We are considering the ordinance route.”
Mukherjee has indeed proved to be a decisive President. Unlike his predecessor Pratibha Patil, who sat on Parliament attack death row convict Afzal Guru’s mercy plea for more than a year, Mukherjee took a decision on the matter in two months. Though, he dug his heels in on the anti-graft ordinances, he has signed several ordinances such as the anti-rape law, food security and Sebi amendments.
Last year, when the land acquisition and rehabilitation bill was being debated in the Rajya Sabha, Mukherjee watched it live on TV. The bill was passed at 10.30 pm. Mukherjee then asked for its file and signed it in an hour to enable the government to pass amendments to the bill in the Lok Sabha on the last day of the 2013 winter session of Parliament.
Days before he was slated to enter Rashtrapati Bhawan, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had put in a special request. She told Mukherjee that she had heard from her mother-in-law (Indira Gandhi) about the glorious history of the building and its various rooms.
Gandhi requested that the old glory of the palatial building be restored. Pranab Mukherjee has done something more: he has also protected the dignity of the highest office in the country.