Five days after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi went public and declared that the ordinance that sought to protect convicted lawmakers should be thrown away, the government did exactly that on Wednesday.
The week-long drama over the controversial ordinance that created a political storm came to a predictable end in the evening when in a 20-minute meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the cabinet reversed its September 24 decision aimed at overturning a Supreme Court judgment.
There are not too many instances of an ordinance being withdrawn after it has been sent to the President for assent.
The cabinet also decided to request the Rajya Sabha chairperson to withdraw the bill — the ordinance was largely drawn from it — that sought amendments to the Representation of the People Act.
While all public offices were closed on Wednesday to mark Gandhi Jayanti, the Congress brass was engaged in a series of meetings through the day.
A week, they say, is a long time in politics and no one would have known it better than the PM, who returned from the US late Tuesday, and his cabinet colleagues when they met in the evening.
“We respect the diversity of youth, the Congress vice-president articulated his view. This decision sends a message that UPA has a government which is not authoritative,” information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said later.
The fate of the ordinance and the bill was sealed when the Congress core group met early in the day. The meeting was held after Singh spoke to Gandhi, who drove down to 7 RCR.
Soon after the core group meeting, the PM met President Pranab Mukherjee, who is learnt to have told Singh of his apprehensions about the legal validity of the ordinance.
The President also felt that the government didn’t explore the option of moving a larger SC bench. Both, however, were on the same page over the public anger against corruption, sources said.
To avoid any fireworks in the cabinet meeting, the PM spoke to the UPA partners — NCP chief Sharad Pawar, RLD leader Ajit Singh and NC’s Farooq Abdullah.
It seems to have worked. As the PM silently watched the proceedings, there was no opposition to the move to withdraw the ordinance and the bill.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, however, did say, “May be we did not look into all aspects of the issue in previous two cabinet meetings.”
Law minister Kapil Sibal said he had “read all related judgments before drafting the ordinance”.