AP Reuters – The saga began when a junior Congress politician in Uttar Pradesh served a petition against a rival, arguing she had violated the constitution by holding an “office of profit” at the same time as serving in parliament.
When Jaya Bachchan, the wife of Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, was disqualified from parliament as a result, the opposition saw its opportunity.
The same law could be used, they argued, to disqualify Sonia Gandhi and many other legislators.
The constitution bars members of parliament from holding a government post that entitles them to pay and perks.
Gandhi’s role as head of the National Advisory Council — which offers the government policy advice — fitted that description, the opposition argued.
Congress seemed to panic, abruptly adjourning parliament and mooting an emergency ordinance to change the law. That, countered the opposition angrily, would subvert parliamentary democracy.
“For the last two days, some people in the country were trying to create an impression that parliament was being misused for my benefit,” Gandhi said on Thursday.
“This has hurt me. I have said before that in my political and personal life, I have not wanted any private benefit.”
While Gandhi may have got off the hook, some of the mud will stick to her party and its government, analysts said.
“It does indicate a fair level of paralysis at the apex of the party and the government,” said Rangarajan. “They didn’t see this coming and they didn’t react.”
The Indian Express newspaper was more damning, calling the idea of an emergency ordinance “a gross attempt at executive outreach” which besmirched government and insulted the people.
With Gandhi out of the firing line, and legislators from across the political spectrum threatened with disqualification by the “office of profit” rule, the government is now expected to try for an all-party agreement to amend the law.