Allies unhappy over bill withdrawal

New Delhi, Oct 2 (IANS) UPA allies supported the decision to withdraw the ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers, but expressed reservations over the bill when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to them, said sources.

According to the sources, Manmohan Singh spoke to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh on phone before the cabinet meeting to enlist their support for withdrawing the controversial ordinance and the bill, now with a parliamentary standing committee.

Pawar articulated that the question was of "substance and not form" while referring to an all-party meeting in August this year where a broad consensus emerged on bringing a bill to negate a Supreme Court order disqualifying lawmakers if they were convicted and sentenced for two or more years.

The NCP had then supported the bill, said the sources.

Ajit Singh suggested to the prime minister that the government needed to find ways to keep criminals off politics probably through fast track courts. He supported the decision to withdraw the ordinance as it was as per public sentiments on the issue.

Abdullah supported the cabinet decision but could not hide his discomfort.

"I am not upset but I am not happy," Abdullah told reporters after the meeting when asked if he was upset with the decision.

"That was also a cabinet decision. This was also a cabinet decision," he said while referring to the cabinet clearing the ordinance Sep 24.

The entire Congress did a turnaround on the ordinance after party vice president Rahul Gandhi publicly trashed it.

"The union cabinet met today and it was unanimously decided that both the ordinance, with regard to certain sections of the Representation of Peoples Act, as well as the bill would be withdrawn," Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari told reporters after the meeting.


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