PM faces litmus test on Rahul Gandhi’s ordinance outburst

imagesrahul pmNew Delhi: All eyes are on now on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since Congress vice-president   Rahul Gandhi has not indicated any revision in his hostile stance to the ordinance to protect convicted legislators and the fact that the Congress party representatives across the country have rallied behind the young scion. Manmohan Singh, currently on a week-long official visit to the US to attend the United Nations General Assembly, is due back on Tuesday. The Prime Minister bought himself, the party and the government valuable time by issuing a statement late on Friday saying he would take up the matter on his return to India.

The Union cabinet signed off on an ordinance on Tuesday to undo a Supreme Court order that disqualified convicted lawmakers and legislators. The litmus test would be whether Singh would convene a cabinet meeting to withdraw the ordinance that has been submitted to President Pranab Mukherjee said On Friday, members of the Congress party and the government indicated that this would be the future course of action. Analysts say Singh is unlikely to seek a confrontation and may instead work to diffuse the crisis. The Prime Minister is likely to duck (the demands for his resignation) and may call a cabinet meeting to withdraw the controversial order. He may also thank Rahul Gandhi for his correct guidance,” said N Bhaskara Rao, a Delhi-based political analyst.

A section of opinion makers and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been making the case that Singh’s authority has been eroded and he should resign in the interests of good governance. So far, neither the Congress party nor Singh have responded to this.Gandhi’s intervention was an attempt to mitigate the likely political damage to the Congress party in the context of the growing adverse public opinion against the move and the signal from Rashtrapati Bhawan that Mukherjee may send back the ordinance that had been submitted to him. Meanwhile, the mood in the party seems to suggest that the rank and the file are with Rahul Gandhi. While  Congress party president Soniya Gandhi did step in to assure Singh that the comments of Rahul Gandhi was not tantamount to a snub, there is no official word from the vice-president or his office on whether he is considering a rethink.

“If he does (rethink his stand) and appear apologetic, it will be like pouring water on what he has achieved with this strong position,” Rao said. “What he has to do now is to keep the momentum and see in which way he can display that in re-energizing the party.”Some analysts say that Rahul Gandhi’s outburst may augur a new beginning, especially, as reported on Friday, the younger parliamentarians and leaders had rallied behind the vice-president. Balveer Arora, chairman, Centre for Multilevel Federalism, a think tank, did not find Rahul Gandhi’s stance as a personal attack on the Prime Minister.“Rahul Gandhi has positioned himself as someone who is fighting against corruption. With his position that no party should make small compromises with corruption, he has distanced himself from the compromises on corruption and projected that there is a section, the younger lot, which wants to fight the corruption, which will be the biggest issue against the Congress in the upcoming elections,” Arora said.

The Congress, which is preparing for a series of electoral battles in states later this year and in the Lok Sabha election due early 2014, has been fighting a sharp decline in its popularity due to corruption scandals against its leaders and unabated high inflation. The BJP, which has appointed Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, on the other hand is projected by opinion polls to be on ascendancy and is expected to win the forthcoming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Arora also pointed out that Gandhi had earlier also expressed his personal views that were contrary to the government’s stance.

Bureau Report

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