Rahul Gandhi's blunt denouncement of the ordinance on lawmakers was rubbished by the opposition with the Bharatiya Janata Party calling it a "desperate and belated" damage control exercise and saying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should quit if he had any self-respect.
As the Congress vice president's dramatic public attack on the government over the ordinance raised the political temperature, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said it is a "belated realisation of nonsense" and that those responsible in the government for the ordinance should resign.
Trinamool Congress' Saugata Roy said Rahul's attack is an "orchestrated" move and demonstrated confusion within the Congress while Communist Party of India's Gurudas Das Gupta said it was "most belated." CPI-M's Brinda Karat wondered why Rahul was reacting after so many days when the ordinance is now before President Pranab Mukherjee.
The ordinance circumvents a Supreme Court order that automatically disqualifed convicted lawmakers. "If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has any self respect left then I think he should call it a day because the super cop who can correct the system has arrived on the scene," said BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi.
Jaitley also asked the PM to react to Rahul's remarks. "The country is waiting to see whether the prime minister has any self-respect left ...whether he accepts this compliment of being called nonsense or does he react for the honour of his own government," he said when asked whether Rahul's statement is seen as a political gimmick.
"Noting that Rahul's attack is a "desperate damage control" exercise, Jaitley said it's only when the "revulsion is built, the Congress party is trying to cut its losses."
"Belated realisation of what the Congress party now calls nonsense. The heads, which brought out this nonsense twice in the last one month, must roll. It is a charade to show the government can make a mistake, but the Congress's first family doesn't," he added.
Jaitley's colleague Murli Manohar Joshi said an "escape route" is being plotted by the Congress after committing a "blunder" while another BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi asked, "Is this a government or a theatrical production?”
"Now that he (Rahul) speaks about it most belatedly, this is not bad, this is good... This statement is coming to take credit," said Gurudas Das Gupta.
"All I can say, this is the highly belated realisation of what constitutes nonsense and if the Congress party genuinely believes that this is nonsense, then the heads which have produced this nonsense twice in a month before this country...this is the question of governance... then will those heads remain or will those heads roll," Jaitley asked.
Taking a dig at the Nehru-Gandhi family on the matter, he said, "If the heads don't roll, then this is only a grandstanding, a charade... intended to only establish... well the government makes mistakes, rest of the world makes mistakes, but the first family of the Congress doesn't make mistakes."
Jaitley termed as "a desperate damage-control exercise" Rahul's opposition to the ordinance. "In the last few days, there has been a national revulsion against this ordinance. Let us not forget that the subject matter of allowing the convicted politician to be a part of the legislative bodies has been approved by the United Progressive Alliance cabinet twice -- first as a bill and now as an ordinance," he said.
On both occasions, the Congress party has supported it, he said. "All the wrong things lie on the head of the prime minister and all the right things go to Mrs Gandhi's share," said Lekhi.
"Definitely there are differences between the Congress party and the UPA government. No one can deny it. Now it is a welknown fact country-wide," said BJP President Rajnath Singh.
CPI's D Raja said that finally good sense has prevailed in the Congress. "Rahul Gandhi says the ordinance should be torn and thrown away. We say all the leaders and the party who brought the ordinance should be thrown away," said Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal.
Image: Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley