Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, on Saturday accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of diminishing the dignity of the country’s top office, and said that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on the ordinance for convicted lawmakers was a ‘belated realisation’ that was part of his party’s ‘grandstanding’ to cut its losses in the lead-up to the 2014 general elections.
"This statement has damaged the dignity of the Prime Minister’s Office. When you have a leader behaving like this against the Cabinet’s decision, and the whole party distances itself from the government’s decision, it shows that the Prime Minister’s position has been belittled and diminished. It will not be incorrect to say that the Prime Minister is in office, but not in power anymore,” Jaitley said.
“Now, how the dignity of the office will be saved is appropriate for the Prime Minister to decide. He will have to take this decision when he returns from the United States. …If he can’t prevail over a young vice president of his party, with what authority is he going to talk to the Prime Minister of Pakistan?” he added.
Continuing his attack on the Prime Minister, Jaitley said Manmohan Singh would have to be proactive and vocal in reacting to Rahul Gandhi’s remarks, which went against the decision of the Cabinet, to ensure that he left behind a legacy.
"The Prime Minister has to decide how he would want history to judge him. …Prime Ministers are judged by the footprints they leave behind. If the Prime Minister accepts the diminishing of his office in this manner, then I am afraid he will not leave any footprints behind, he will only be a footnote in history,” Jaitley said.
Commenting on Rahul Gandhi’s statement, Jaitley further said the Congress vice president should have woken up earlier, when the bill was up for debate in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
“I think it is a belated realization of what he calls ‘nonsense’. He should have been opposing it one and a half months ago when the bill was originally proposed. It’s only to cut the losses of the Congress Party that this grandstanding has been indulged in,” Jaitley said.
Earlier, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, regarding his views on the ordinance pushed by the Government, after he made a controversial remark on the issue on Friday.
In the letter to the Prime Minister, Rahul Gandhi wrote: "I realise that what I feel about the Ordinance is not in harmony with the Cabinet decision and the Core Group's view. I also know it would be exploited by our political opponents. You know that I have the highest respect for you and I look up to you for your wisdom. I have nothing but the greatest admiration for the manner in which you are providing leadership in extremely difficult circumstances. I hope you will understand the strength of my own conviction about this very controversial issue.
In a major embarrassment to the Congress-led UPA II Government, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi dubbed the ordinance to negate the Supreme Court verdict on convicted lawmakers as 'complete nonsense', and said it should be torn up and thrown away.
"I personally think what the government is doing on the ordinance is wrong. It was a political decision, every party does it, and there is a time to stop this nonsense," he said.
The developments came a day after President Pranab Mukherjee summoned senior Cabinet ministers Sushil Kumar Shinde, Kamal Nath and Kapil Sibal for consultations on the ordinance pending before him for signature.
The Union Cabinet had approved an ordinance to reverse the Supreme Court judgment mandating the immediate disqualification of lawmakers convicted for a criminal offence punishable with a jail term of more than two years.
The ordinance seeks to reverse the Supreme Court judgement that had not only disqualified lawmakers convicted of offences with two years or more in jail, but also barred from contesting elections.