As indications emerge that Centre could withdraw the controversial ordinance on lawmakers, Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress on Wednesday engaged in a slugfest over the issue with the Opposition claiming victory and the ruling party accusing it of changing tunes.
"It is BJP's pressure, which has won and it is the opinion of the people of this country, which has won. It is not Rahul Gandhi's decision because Rahul Gandhi's opinion is what was Congress opinion....
"So it is not the initiative of Rahul Gandhi. It is the opinion of the Supreme Court, the people and the pressure exerted by the Opposition, which has won," BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said.
Countering the claim, Parliamentary Affairs Minister and senior Congress leader Kamal Nath said the BJP was on board when the decision was taken to address the issue of section 8(4) of the People Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court, which enabled three-month breather to lawmakers to appeal for a stay against the conviction.
"BJP reposition themselves. They will posture, they will pose, they will do something in the meeting, something in the public and something else privately. That's an old sytle of functioning of the BJP," Nath said.
The minister said that two all-party meetings were held on August 1 and on August 13 and the "BJP was of clear view that 8(4)should be dealt with and should be addressed, and they were supporting that we should bring an amendment including a Constitutional amendment."
Nath said the issue was discussed in the Business Advisory Committee of Rajya Sabha where the BJP and all parties agreed that it should be listed and so it was introduced in the Upper House.
"Ever since Rahul Gandhi said that this must be reviewed, the BJP has taken a different line altogether. That is unfortunate part of it. This is very old style of functioning of BJP -- say one thing at one place and say another at another," he said.
Lekhi, however, accused Nath of engaging in "doublespeak".
"BJP was not in favour of Constitutional amendment to protect the tainted MPs, MLAs. Arun Jaitley stated that if you are going to bring that bill without referring to Standing Committee, then I am going to strike on this too hard," she said, accusing the Congress of "trying to distort the facts".
Nath also sought to give an impression that the decision to bring the ordinance was not the decision of Congress but also of all other parties.
"Cabinet took a decision and at the back of that was all-party meeting, two of them had taken that position that modify 8(4). That was the decision taken by the Cabinet...the bill has gone to Standing Committee. So that will take its own course, own rules. Let us see what happens in the Cabinet meeting," he said.
The Union minster also rejected the contention that there was any communication gap between Rahul Gandhi and the government on the issue.
"I don't think that there is a communication gap as the Prime Minister was abroad and in any case, the Cabinet will be discussing it in the evening and everything will be decided there," he said.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said that while a decision has to be taken by the Cabinet on it, he does not think that Rahul Gandhi's views on the issue can be ignored.
Image: Meenakshi Lekhi and Kamal Nath