When dynasty is supreme in Government decision-making
By Soli J Sorabjee | Published: 06th October 2013 06:55 AM |
Political parties and politicians are not generally guided in their actions by logic or principles of constitutional morality. Witness the drama regarding promulgation of the ordinance and the bill whose intent is to neutralise the recent landmark judgment of the Supreme Court whose salutary effect is to cleanse our electoral system from criminalisation. The ordinance generated widespread criticism from eminent lawyers, members of civil society and in the print and electronic media. The government nonetheless was determined to go ahead and more than one Congress minister spoke in favour of the ordinance and the bill. Then wisdom suddenly dawned, thanks to the fiery speech by the Vice-President of the Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who described the ordinance as complete nonsense and which should be torn and thrown into the waste paper basket. The ordinance, according to Law Minister Kapil Sibal, was enacted after careful consideration and studying the relevant Supreme Court judgments. Therefore, description of the ordinance as complete nonsense clearly questions Sibal’s legal ability. It is unlikely that Rahul’s outburst was based on his understanding of Article 123 of the Constitution of which he is in all probability sublimely unaware. The occasion for his diatribe could be his revulsion for legislation whose aim is to protect corrupt politicians and which is, therefore, immoral. At first blush, my reaction was of admiration for a young man who cherished constitutional values and had the courage to speak out at the press conference. But certain doubts soon began to assail me. Why did Rahul not speak out earlier? Why did he time his outburst when our Prime Minister was abroad and had the burdensome task of discussing with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif the perennial problem of terror across the LoC? Did he not realise that his intemperate statements were bound to diminish the credibility of our Prime Minister even if that was not his intention? Why did Rahul not convey his objections to the ordinance and the bill in private to Sibal and Chidambaram, who was also partly instrumental in the enactment of the ordinance? Rahul’s subsequent statement about his mother Sonia Gandhi chiding him for his statements and his defence that nonetheless they came from his heart displays immaturity in a person who is expected to be the next Prime Minister of our country.
One view is that by forcing the government to withdraw the unpopular ordinance on convicted lawmakers, Rahul has shed his reluctant politician image and sought to distance his family and party from the scam-tainted UPA regime. According to some political observers, Rahul’s surprising outburst indicates that a transition of leadership is underway in the Congress where the young brigade led by the young vice-president will assert itself on crucial issues.
The most sickening part is the prompt manner in which Congress ministers and politicians changed track and endorsed Rahul’s position. Have they no courage of their convictions? Are they mere caged parrots singing their young master’s tune? It would be disingenuous to attribute the change in the government’s stand as a democratic concession to mounting public criticism for which it cared mighty little before Rahul’s condemnation. And what about the coalition partners? Is there no person of stature who has the courage to dissent from the condemnation by Rahul who is not even a Cabinet minister? No doubt, the end result, namely withdrawal of the ordinance and the bill, is good, though Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Misra who are now in jail will certainly not share that opinion. However, the way that has come about raises grave questions about collective responsibility of the Cabinet and constitutional propriety. To the questions I have posed earlier, there are no easy answers except that it is manifest that the role of the dynasty is supreme in government decision-making and sycophancy and pusillanimity are at their peak.
Sorabjee is a former Attorney General of India