With ill winds from India’s domestic political drama threatening to overshadow his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement from here on Friday morning seeking to play down the significance of Rahul Gandhi’s dramatic outburst against the controversial Ordinance granting a reprieve to convicted lawmakers.
“The Ordinance cleared by the Cabinet pertaining to the Representation of the People Act has been a matter of much public debate,” the Prime Minister’s statement said. “The Congress Vice-President has also written to me on the issue and also made a statement. The government is seized of all these developments. The issues raised will be considered on my return to India after due deliberations in the Cabinet.”
The Ordinance had run into trouble on Thursday with President Pranab Mukherjee asking the government why the move was considered necessary.
It is not immediately known if the Prime Minister had an inkling of what Mr. Gandhi was going to do; certainly, the initial reaction of his advisers was to duck the controversy by telling reporters off the record that Dr. Singh would not comment on domestic matters while abroad. But in the face of the growing perception back home that the Prime Minister had been left holding a can that had become too politically hot for the Congress party and its leadership to handle, his statement is an attempt to treat Mr. Gandhi’s remarks as just another input to be considered in due course.
The reality is that those remarks are anything but that. They have set a new line to which the Prime Minister and his government will have to conform, regardless of the intellectual gymnastics that are required to accomplish a U-turn.
On his way back from the G-20 summit in Moscow earlier this month, Dr. Singh had said he “would be happy to work for the Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhiji” when the 2014 elections are over.
After today’s developments, it is apparent the future is now.