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Rahul shows the way

Ranabir Ray Choudhury
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Laying a leadership claim.
Laying a leadership claim.

In striking down the ordinance, Rahul Gandhi has made a statement.

The Supreme Court’s July 10 order disqualifying any sitting member of the Lok Sabha with immediate effect if he or she is convicted for an offence punishable with a jail term of two years or more will come into play in Lalu Prasad’s conviction by a CBI court in the infamous fodder scam case. In concrete terms, provided the 66-year-old former strongman of Bihar is not successful in getting a quick acquittal from a higher court (which is improbable given the slothful pace at which the judiciary moves to clear litigation – after all, the case itself took around 17 years to come to judgement), he will most likely be barred from both Parliament and the State Assembly for at least 11 years.

The question to ask is, whether this will be good for the body politic of the country — a politician who has been convicted as being corrupt by a designated court of the land not being able to participate actively in the law-making process for a number of years? There will be unanimous approval of the situation in which Lalu Prasad finds himself in just now, not because one has anything specific against one of Bihar’s most colourful politicians but because of the point of principle involved.

PERFECT INTERVENTION

A much more important question to ask is whether the conviction of Lalu Prasad would have had the consequences being talked about today if the Ordinance which the UPA-2 Government had sent to the President amending the existing relevant legislation had taken effect before the CBI court pronounced judgement in the fodder scam case? One of the arguments used against the Supreme Court’s order was that unscrupulous people would have used it to prevent their opponents from continuing in the legislature or even becoming members of it. If the nation approves of the CBI court’s judgment, this clearly indicates that the apprehension is not well-founded.

While the President needs to be complimented for holding back his approval of the Ordinance , the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi deserves the nation’s heartfelt thanks for having come out so very forthrightly against it at a critical moment. To all appearances, the September 27 unscheduled appearance at a Press conference by the young scion of the Gandhi family was a statement on what governance ought to be. But, as it turned out, it was also the first serious effort made by the young Gandhi to project himself on to the national stage as a serious contender for the possible leadership of the Government.

Some observers may describe Rahul Gandhi’s intervention as a political master-stroke keeping the future in mind. It will of course never be known whether Sonia Gandhi was privy to her son’s September 27 performance. Rahul Gandhi is still young. One only hopes that he has set an example which will be emulated by Indians of his generation.

(This article was published on October 2, 2013)
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