Prime Minister will also discuss the ordinance with President Pranab Mukherjee
The Union Cabinet is likely to withdraw the controversial ordinance on convicted lawmakers that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has publicly censured. It is learnt that the ordinance is the only item on the agenda of the Cabinet meeting to be held here on Wednesday evening.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who returned from the U.S. on Tuesday evening, is expected to call on President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday morning to brief him on his talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York as also his address to the U.N. General Assembly. It is understood that the Prime Minister will also discuss the ordinance that was sent to the President last week and on which he, too, has some reservations.
Last Thursday, Mr. Mukherjee had called Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde for a briefing on the subject. Wednesday morning, government sources said, is the only window of opportunity for the meeting as the President leaves on a five-day tour of Belgium and Turkey in the afternoon.
In a statement last Friday, the Prime Minister said the Cabinet would reconsider its position once he returned from his trip. “The ordinance cleared by the Cabinet …. has been a matter of much public debate,” the statement said. “The issues raised will be considered on my return to India after due deliberations in the Cabinet.” It is not clear yet whether there will also be a meeting of the UPA Coordination Committee before the Cabinet meeting.
Call for UPA panel meet
Following Mr. Gandhi’s denunciation of the ordinance as “complete nonsense,” some UPA allies expressed their discomfort at the way the matter was dealt with. “I think it could have been better handled,” Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Union Minister Praful Patel has said, stressing, “For the Cabinet to take a decision and go back on its decision is certainly not a happy situation but under the circumstances it will have to be taken.”
His party colleague, NCP chief spokesperson D.P. Tripathi expressed himself more strongly, demanding an urgent meeting of the UPA Coordination Committee, noting that consultations in the alliance “have to be known to the people and public at large.” National Conference leader and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said that while Mr. Gandhi’s remarks may be “the internal matter of the Congress,” a meeting of the Coordination Committee should be called so that the “misunderstandings … created regarding this ordinance. publicly [are] set right privately in a closed room.”
Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said that since the Cabinet had approved the ordinance, “if any changes have to be made, only the Cabinet can do it.” A proposal to withdraw the earlier Cabinet recommendation to the President to promulgate the ordinance is likely to be brought, it is learnt.
The Congress is trying to give the episode a positive spin: a senior party functionary said, “On Monday, RJD leader Lalu Prasad was convicted; today, our MP Rasheed Masood has been convicted. If the ordinance had been promulgated, the Opposition would have pilloried us.”