NEW DELHI: In a setback to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the government on Sunday abandoned its attempt to push through ordinances on anti-corruption legislation in the face of criticism and President Pranab Mukherjee’s apparent reluctance to approve the ordinances.
The Cabinet, however, did approve inclusion of jats in the central OBC list, a move that aims to assuage the vocal and influential community with a sizeable presence in states like Rajasthan, Haryana, UP, Delhi and Punjab.
The Jat quota may spark resentment among OBC castes forced to share reservation benefits, but is seen as intended to reach out to the community that has been alienated from UPA since the Muzaffarnagar riots.
There was near unanimity at the Cabinet meeting that it would not be feasible to adopt the ordinance route as some of the anti-graft legislations were before standing committees and questions of propriety had been raised with regard to rushing the bills.
There was no reference to the President’s views on the ordinances at the Cabinet meeting though senior ministers had met him ahead of the ministerial discussions.
When the Cabinet met on Sunday evening, there were just four items on the agenda: a recommendation to the Planning Commission for special status to Seemandhra, inclusion of Jats in the central OBC list, changes in the SC/ST atrocities (prevention) act and reverting of 123 properties in Delhi to Wakf.
Despite the ordinances dealing with changes in the Prevention of Corruption Act, an amendment to the whistleblower’s act and the citizen’s charter and right to grievance redressal being kept off the agenda, the Cabinet did hold a detailed discussion on the merits of adopting the ordinance route. Also off the agenda was an ordinance on amendments to the Sebi Act.
The decision not to go ahead with the ordinances on anti-corruption bills that were taken up by Rahul after Congress’s losses in major state elections in December last year is a major setback for the Congress leader who has made these bills a testament to his commitment to combat graft.
It was on the Congress vice-president’s strong insistence that the government called a lengthy final session of Parliament from February 3 to 21, instead of a much shorter one that a vote on account and the Andhra Pradesh bifurcation bill would require.
Rahul was understood to be upset when Parliament concluded without the bills being taken up and is believed to have spoken of the possibility of the final session of the 15th Lok Sabha being extended.
The bid to try and press ahead with the ordinance route hit a roadblock as the President is understood to have made plain his deep unease over the government rushing through the anti-corruption ordinances days after Parliament had been prorogued and just ahead of the expected announcement of Lok Sabha polls.
Sensing the President’s reluctance to sign off on ordinances that are clearly intended to make a political statement, the opposition chimed in, demanding that Mukherjee withhold assent to the measures.
Speaking to the media after the Cabinet meeting, information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said it was decided that given the significance of the anti-corruption legislations, it was felt that it would be best to allow a full discussion on them.
The decision on properties in Delhi relates to plots being reverted to muttawalies who administer the respective entitlements.