Forget about the Opposition and the anti-corruption brigade protesting against the ordinance protecting tainted politicians. The Congress party itself is deeply divided on the issue. Sheela Bhatt reports
A weak and troubled United Progressive Alliance government has stumbled badly by issuing the ordinance to counter the fine Supreme Court judgment that forces the disqualification of lawmakers convicted for a criminal offence punishable with a jail term of over two years.
The sources say that there is a rethink over the issue within the government and the Congress party.
Milind Deora, a minister of state who is close to Rahul Gandhi, has spoken against the ordinance which is being interpreted as the Congress vice president's dissent for the ordinance.
Deora says the ordinance will, "endanger the already eroding public faith in democracy".
Before Deora, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had criticised the ordinance.
Congress leaders from Uttar Pradesh, Rashid Alvi and Anil Shastri have also taken a stand against it.
A section of Congress leaders are in favour of cutting the losses by withdrawing the ordinance.
The move to bring the ordinance was essentially seen to save Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav and Congress leader Rasheed Masood, both of whom are tainted in corruption cases.
Yadav is trembling due to the pending case against him in Ranchi where under the law he may or may not get a jail term of three years or more.
Since the last two days, the Congress has been trying in vain for damage control.
According to Congress sources, the advice given to the party top brass by Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Finance Minister P Chidambaram to bring the ordinance led to the present fiasco.
Their legal advise is proving politically incorrect, as in one stroke the Congress has lost the argument against the issue of corruption which is one of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s main planks in his tirade against the government and the Congress. .
The ordinance, which was to be signed by President Pranab Mukherjee, is in a flux because of lack of political consensus. Even if it is signed, it will become the divisive issue and will give the anti-Congress parties an issue to go with to the public.
In Ranchi, Special Central Bureau of Investigation Judge P K Singh will announce verdict in the infamous fodder scam case involving Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Mishra on September 30.
In similar cases in the scam, the court had earlier awarded three to seven years imprisonment to some former cabinet colleagues of Lalu Yadav, including two chairmen of Public Accounts Committee and half a dozen senior IAS officers.
The urgency to bring in an ordinance was forced by Lalu Yadav. He reportedly pleaded before Congress president Sonia Gandhi that if he were to be convicted the BJP will have a free play in Bihar and the Yadav vote bank may shift to anti-Congress parties for a long time to come.
In his previous avatar as country’s top-most lawyer, Sibal had taken the brief of Lalu Yadav in the fodder scam. He has now helped Lalu on the eve of judgment. But, in the process, the Congress has been found guilty of siding with the corrupt by Opposition parties and the anti-corruption brigade.
The ordinance negated the Supreme Court judgment, which was well-received by the people.
The Apex court even dismissed the review petition filed by the government.
Jagdeep Chhokar, co-founder of the Association for Democratic Reforms, said that ‘the government ordinance has dealt a destructive blow to democracy’.
Now with Deora speaking in Chhokar’s language, it is evident how the Congress party itself is deeply divided on the issue.