New Delhi, Feb 17, 2020-
The now-defunct Planning Commission’s former Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Monday said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi used “strong words” in 2013 while tearing up an ordinance on convicted lawmakers, but insisted then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did the right thing by not resigning.
In an exclusive interview, Ahluwalia said: “On hindsight, I think, Dr Singh took the right call.”
Giving his reasons, the former aide to Manmohan Singh said that had Rahul Gandhi been a member of the then Union Council of Ministers, things would have been different. “But he was the Vice President of a political party,” he pointed out.
When pointed out that Gandhi kept Dr Singh in the dark about his sudden move on the ordinance, he quoted former Congress Vice President (Gandhi) to suggest that his choice of words could have been better.
“You must realise, in a democracy, there is nothing wrong to have dissent within the party. I don’t think there’s much merit in running a party in a way in which everyone in a party simply endorses what the party leadership thinks. This is an example of democratic dissent surfacing (within the party). In my view, nothing wrong with it. Mr Gandhi himself, I think, said that may be the words he used were not very appropriate… I think he said ‘complete nonsense’, okay? Strong words! But the bottom line is, had he simply gone there and said ‘this has happened that I frankly have great doubts about’… I think there would not have been anything wrong with that. That’s what democracy is all about. People should freely express their views, and if you disagree with them, you discuss that. And that’s what they did,” Ahluwalia said.
Ahluwalia has mentioned this incident in great detail in his latest book “Backstage: The Story behind India’s High Growth Years”.
He said that after his brother wrote an article to advocate Dr Singh’s resignation, he showed the article to the then Prime Minister.
“The first thing I did was to take the text across to the PM’s suite because I wanted him to hear about it from me first. He read it in silence, and initially made no comment. Then, he suddenly asked me whether I thought he should resign. I thought about it for a while and said ‘I do not think a resignation on this issue is appropriate’.”
In 2013, after the Supreme Court ruled that sitting lawmakers convicted of crime would be immediately disqualified and not continue as MPs, MLAs or MLCs pending an appeal, the then United Progressive Alliance government sought to bring an ordinance to counter the verdict.
Rahul Gandhi appeared unannounced at an event to oppose his own party’s line and tore a copy of the ordinance, an act seen as undermining the Prime Minister’s authority while he was in the US. (Agency)