Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s self-goal on the draft Ordinance to let convicted persons continue as legislators has given a handle to the Opposition to target Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Ironically, the Opposition was not even ready to give credit to Mr. Gandhi, saying it was a damage-control attempt after President Pranab Mukherjee asked the government to brief him of the background.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said that if the ordinance was a non-sense, as characterised by Mr. Gandhi, Dr. Singh should quit “if he has any self-respect.”

The Trinamool Congress’s Saugata Roy said Mr. Gandhi’s remarks were an “orchestrated” move and demonstrated confusion in the Congress.

The CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta said: “Now that he [Mr. Gandhi] speaks about it most belatedly, this is not bad, this is good... This statement is coming to take credit.”

Brinda Karat of the CPI(M) wondered how Mr. Gandhi suddenly realised the worth of the ordinance, days after the Cabinet cleared it and sent it to the President.

Mr. Jaitley said the country was waiting to see whether the Prime Minister had any self-respect left and whether he accepted this compliment or he reacted for the honour of his government. “Belated realisation of what the Congress 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.”

Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said the Congress was plotting an “escape route” after its “blunder.” Another BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi asked: “Is this a government or a theatrical production.”

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