Soaring public anger and Rahul Gandhi's public reprimand have forced the Union Cabinet to dump the controversial ordinance seeking to protect convicted lawmakers from immediate disqualification. In a complete U-turn, the Cabinet not just scrapped the ordinance but also withdrew the bill, pending before a parliamentary standing committee. Both the ordinance and the bill were aimed to negate the Supreme Court's ruling on convicted MPs, MLAs and MLCs.
Earlier, the Congress vice-president had rejected the government bid to shield convicted lawmakers at a dramatic press interaction. He had labelled the ordinance as "nonsense" and suggested that it be "torn up and thrown away". Rahul's intervention was to save the government from a public backlash building up over the bill against the government. The ordinance had been criticised as it sought to add clause 4 to section 8 of the Representation of People's Act (RPA), which allowed legislators to continue in their seats till their appeals against conviction were pending in the Court. He later clarified it at a meeting with PM Manmohan Singh by telling him of how the ordinance was out-of-sync with the public mood, thereby starting the process of its formal burial through the Cabinet process.
The SC had held that clause 8(4) violated Article 102 of the Constitution that describes conditions when an MP, MLA or MLC could be disqualified. One of these conditions was conviction for an offence that resulted in a sentence of more than two years. The political class had ganged up, arguing that this was unfair as it was unfair to a legislator who might be acquitted by the court later. But the political consensus agaisnt the order broke down with BJP distancing itself by arguing that the move was unconstitutional.
With an eye on the public mood and the forthcoming state elections, the BJP opposed the bill in Parliament, forcing the government to send it to a standing committee. The BJP escalated its opposition when the government introduced the ordinance, and urged Prez Pranab Mukherjee to return it to the government. The government, despite having defended the ordinance, changed its stance after Rahul's dramatic intervention.