The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is thrilled that its move to block the passage of the bill to nullify the Supreme Court verdict on disqualification of convicted legislators, has gone according to the script with the conviction of the former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad paving the way for his possible disqualification.
At the all party meeting convened by the government before the commencement of the monsoon session of Parliament, the BJP among several other parties had agreed to the passage of the bill to overturn the apex court’s judgement.
The near consensus on the bill was on the understanding that the subject was entirely the jurisdiction of elected bodies and not that of courts. The BJP took the Parliamentary managers of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) by surprise by insisting in the last minute, when the bill was put up in the Rajya Sabha for consideration and passage, that it should be referred to a Parliamentary standing committee.
According to BJP insiders, it was a tactical move on the part of its leaders to delay the passage of the bill hoping that the former Bihar Chief Minister would be convicted in the fodder case leading to his disqualification as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
The strategy fits into the party’s calculation that with Mr. Prasad behind bars, his vote base particularly from Yadavs would be eroded and the BJP would be the beneficiary.
When the government approved the draft ordinance to give immediate effect to the bill, a high level BJP delegation called on resident Pranab Mukherjee asking him not to give his assent.
Hours after the verdict Leader of the Opposition (Rajya Sabha) Arun Jaitley claimed in a written note ‘Lalu’s Conviction- A defining moment for Indian Politics’ that the verdict convicting so many big leaders is an assurance for probity in our polity.
‘UPA shielded Lalu’
He argued that the UPA government shielded Mr. Prasad for several years as his party balanced the UPA in its pursuit of coalition politics.
“He had a vested interest in supporting the UPA. Besides being in power he could manage to manipulate the CBI which was prosecuting his case to sabotage the prosecution. In the year 2004, the first major attack on the UPA government was on the issue of seven tainted ministers being a part of the Council of Ministers. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh defended the tainted,” Mr. Jaitley said.
‘Lalu foremost among the tainted’
He charged that Mr. Prasad was the foremost among the tainted who were being prosecuted adding that some of his cases were successfully killed by the prosecution itself. “One can manage the system on some occasions. It is not possible to manage all the people all the time. There are some men of integrity in every institution. There are many in the judiciary who still cannot be bent. The accused were uncomfortable with the presiding judge, efforts to get him changed failed. The prosecutor was changed but the Supreme Court intervened and prevented that from happening and finally a historic verdict holding the 45 people guilty,” Mr. Jaitley said.
On the controversial draft ordinance approved by the government, which is pending before Parliament and most probably would be withdrawn after Dr. Singh’s returns from hi U.S.A. tour, Mr. Jaitley said, “Today we have all understood why this Ordinance was brought. Its only object was to help a loyal UPA ally who was likely to be convicted. In the end justice has prevailed. Be you ever so high the law is above you.”