A day after asking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to quit, following the snub by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on the draft ordinance to exempt convicted legislators from disqualification, the BJP has charged the Gandhi scion with putting President Pranab Mukherjee in a situation of ‘discomfort’.
The draft bill, cleared by the Cabinet, is with the President for his assent. Mr. Mukherjee had sought a briefing from two senior ministers on the circumstances which necessitated the move when the bill had been referred to a parliamentary standing committee.
The President’s decision to seek more details has given room to speculation that Mr. Mukherjee has reservations about giving his assent.
At a news conference here, BJP’s Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad argued that the chain of events triggered by Mr. Gandhi’s stinging remarks against the government, at a juncture when the draft ordinance has been sent for assent, seem to have been ‘designed’ to create discomfort even to the President.
Mr. Prasad said the episode was akin to what Rajiv Gandhi did as Prime Minister when he publicly rebuked the then Foreign Secretary A.P. Venkateswaran in response to a question at a news conference. Within hours of Rajiv’s comments, the Foreign Secretary put in his papers.
“If the conscience of a self-respecting Foreign Secretary can awaken, let’s see if the Prime Minister’s conscience awakens,” Mr. Prasad said, adding that if Dr. Singh had any conscience he should drive straight to Rashtrapati Bhavan on his return from abroad and submit his resignation.
‘Crossing limits of civility’
Accusing Mr. Gandhi of “crossing limits of civility”, Mr. Prasad maintained that even the Opposition had never used the kind of language against the Prime Minister. The Opposition had always refrained from criticising the Prime Minister particularly when he was abroad as he represented India and it involved the prestige of the office of the Prime Minister.
The issue is not Dr. Singh, but the integrity of the office of the Prime Minister, he added.
“Today, Rajiv Gandhi’s son, who is your party’s vice-president and under whose leadership you are ready to work in 2014 even after remaining Prime Minister for 10 years, has termed your government’s decisions taken under your leadership as nonsense and that it [ordinance] should be torn up and thrown away, what do you think about it,” he questioned the Prime Minister.