Rahul Gandhi’s melodramatic “nonsense” act tried to mellow PM. It turns out, Manmohan Singh is more thick skinned than anyone could imagine.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned from his foreign trip last night and today he went to pay homage to father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, at Rajghat. Although, party president Sonia Gandhi was present there, party vice-president and possible prime ministerial candidate from the party, Rahul Gandhi, was missing from the scene.
With his absence the talk in the town about the rift between PM Singh and Rahul has increased.
The PM is meeting president Pranab Mukherjee in the noon which is likely to decide the fate of the ordinance- the reason behind the rift. Till the last reports, Congress had decided to kill the ordinance.
The beginning of fallout
After Supreme Court passed an order under the Representation of People Act, saying that the lawmakers will face an immediate disqualification from the houses they are instated in and will also be barred from contesting election further, the UPA prepared an ordinance to negate the judgement.
The draft of the ordinance was prepared by the law ministry and was approved by the core group before being taken to the cabinet. After cabinet’s approval it was sent to the president for approval amidst wide protest from the opposition.
Reportedly, meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi had written a letter to the PM asking too withdraw the ordinance saying that it was not in country’s best interest.
PM had left for his UN General Assembly meeting after the ordinance was cleared by the cabinet without replying to the said letter by Rahul.
When Rahul Gandhi crashed a press conference to “speak his mind” the political circuits of the country went on fire.
Here was a young and angry man uttering strong words like “nonsense” to describe an ordinance passed by the cabinet lying on President’s table for approval.
Rahul wished to “tear” and “throw away” the ordinance which was meant to negate an order by Supreme Court which provided for immediate disqualification of lawmakers from contesting elections. He had also said that the “small compromises” that Congress has been making should stop in order to remain in power.
Interestingly, he did not wait for the PM to return and reply to him. Neither did he talk to him over phone for the same.
The language used for the work which Prime Minister and the core group of the party approved surely moved Rahul inside the dock. But the timing of the statement was also questioned.
The prime minister of the country was outside visiting world leaders at UN. The crucial meeting between India and Pakistan was going to take place. But Rahul did not think for a second that his statement may harm PM’s image in the world.
Not only it undermined PM’s position, it also reflected the kind of respect Rahul harbours for the senior leader.
What was worse that the opposition defended the PM at that time rather than his own party coming to his rescue first. The whims and fancies of Rahul Baba, it seemed, were more important to the party than Singh.
However, Sonia Gandhi later conveyed her views to the media saying that Congress supported PM and that there was no question about his authority. But it came only after BJP accused Congress of playing a bigger ploy of projecting Rahul as a clean image politicians and undermining Singh’s position so that he may gain from it.
Return of wounded Singh
Last night, PM returned from his visit. On board Air India One, he tried to tell people that there was no rift between the two people and that Congress was not an authotarian party which moved on whims.
“I honestly feel that if there is an important point of view, any member of the Congress Party, any member of my cabinet is free to raise issues and require reconsideration of issues. I think that’s what a democracy is about. I don’t think we are an authoritarian structure in which one person lays down the line all the way and therefore my humble feeling is that when a point of view has been expressed, we must sit together and understand what is agitating the mind of the person who has raised these issue and that’s what we will do,” he had said.
Speaking on Rahul, he had said, “Well, I think, I have seen Rahul Gandhi’s statement. He has written to me on this subject also and let me say that when issues are raised in a democracy, in a democratic polity, right course is to start with and trying to understand what is it agitating the mind of the concerned people.”
“Well I am not the master of what people say. It has happened and as I said when I go back I will try to find out the reasons why it had to be done that way and how do we handle it,” the prime minister had said when asked whether Gandhi should have raised the issue of the ordinance when he was away.
“I am trying to understand what is it agitating the mind of the concerned people. When I go back, I will discuss these matters with Mr Rahul Gandhi. He has asked for a meeting with me and I will take my Cabinet colleagues also in to confidence. We will see which way the wind blows. Well, there is no question of resigning. I said I will put all these issues before my Cabinet colleagues. These are all matters which are discussed before the highest body, the core group of the Congress Party. The Cabinet discussed this matter twice, not once. But it is always possible to change one’s mind and I will consult my colleagues on all these issues,” he had further said.
The strong message
It should be noted the way Prime Minister subtly yet strongly replied to the melodramatic act of Rahul Gandhi.
He does not think that his position was harmed in any way even though Rahul called the ordinance an “utter nonsense.” He does not think that he should resign from his post because a party member, that too heir apparent, objected to the idea of doing “small compromises” for forming the government.
Not only that, by clearly stating that the ordinance was an idea taken up and approved by the core group twice he threw the burden on Congress chair Sonia Gandhi who is also head of the core group of the party. Without her approval, the ordinance could not have been taken up by the law ministry for drafting. The question of ordinance being taken up by the cabinet for further constitutional courses comes later.
Moreover, he gently asked Rahul where he was when all this was happening. His “agitating mind” should have waited till he came back home.
Thick skinned politician
As political commentator Sanjay Singh calls him, the Prime Minister is apparently “thick skinned” and “hard-boiled” politician. Rahul’s attempt to mellow him and opposition’s attempt to ridicule him by playing good supporter for a while fails here.