In a stunning setback for the Congress-led UPA Government, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi slammed the administration for bringing an Ordinance to protect convicted MPs and MLAs.

“I tell you what my opinion on the Ordinance is: That it is complete nonsense. It should be torn up and thrown away. That’s my opinion,” the Nehru-Gandhi scion told the media during a surprise appearance at a press conference called by Congress media head Ajay Maken.

Even as the dramatic statement set the social media abuzz, and prompted BJP’s leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley to demand Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation, the Government moved into damage-control mode.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet had cleared the Ordinance, which sought to negate a recent Supreme Court judgment that pronounced that sitting MPs and MLAs either jailed on charges or after conviction, would have to resign their seats forthwith.

There were also reports that President Pranab Mukherjee had asked the Home and Law Ministers to brief him on why it was necessary to clear an Ordinance in such haste.

Within hours of Rahul Gandhi’s statement, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is on a visit to the US, said the Cabinet will discuss the matter again after his return. Congress circles have indicated that the Government is likely to withdraw the Ordinance. Several Ministers, particularly P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, have been defending the Ordinance , even as the Opposition parties approached the President demanding that it should be returned. In his statement, the Prime Minister said the Ordinance cleared by the Cabinet pertaining to the Representation of the People Act had been a matter of much public debate. “The Congress Vice-President has also written to me on the issue and also made a statement. The Government is seized of all these developments. The issues raised will be considered on my return to India after due deliberations in the Cabinet,” he said.

Rahul Gandhi said that those in his party who are for the Ordinance argue that it should be done for political considerations. “All parties need to stop making these small compromises,” he said. He did not field any questions from reporters and left saying that he had “work to do.”

Maken, who was defending the Ordinance minutes before Gandhi’s entry, changed his “line” and said Rahul Gandhi has been opposed to giving posts to convicted politicians and the party will stand by him. Explaining his uninvited entry to the press conference, Rahul Gandhi said Maken had told him that there were questions on the Ordinance. The Opposition, however, termed Rahul Gandhi’s press conference a “drama” to take the credit of withdrawing an anti-Constitutional Ordinance.