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Cong upset, but won't oppose Misra ordinance ratification

Congress says it is opposing the "principle" of the ordinance route, not to the choice of the man in question

Kavita Chowdhury  |  New Delhi 

Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor

The Congress party is “unhappy” with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government over the promulgation of an ordinance to appoint a former telecom regulator as principal secretary to the Prime Minister but is unlikely to vote against it in Parliament.

The party notes the BJP, when in the opposition, had opposed several ordinances of the Congress-led government. Even so, it is not likely to oppose the ordinance when this comes for ratification before Parliament next week.

This is welcome news for the BJP, as it is well short of a majority in the Rajya Sabha. The ruling coalition can command no more than 57 in the 231-member House. The Congress has 67 members.

The Congress says it is opposing the “principle” of the ordinance route, not to the choice of the man in question, Nripendra Misra, as the PM’s choice to head the latter’s office. As a former head of the telecom regulatory body, the rules forbade Misra from being appointed to any further government job.

Yet, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was keen on appointing him, an ordinance was issued to amend the law on May 28, when news of Misra’s appointment became public. The government had taken the oath of office on May 26.

“What was the need for the ordinance when Parliament is meeting next week?” asked Congress spokesman Shashi Tharoor. “How can the BJP start its term in office with an ordinance, when, in opposition, it had opposed us tooth and nail on ordinances?”

Former law minister Kapil Sibal said there were good reasons for an arm’s length relationship between regulators and the government, adding this should be maintained.

Speaking to Business Standard, the Congress’ communications in-charge, Ajay Maken, said, “It’s ironical that they have bypassed their own cabinet on it…We are not going into the choice of Nripendra Misra; he is known to be an honest, upright officer. We are unhappy with the way they have gone about it. After all, they will need our help to get it cleared in Parliament. They should have informed us.”

Asked if the Congress would oppose the ordinance in the Rajya Sabha, he said, “We have not taken a decision on that.”

“Essentially, it is the prerogative of the prime minister. Our opposition would be more on the policy,” said a Congress leader.

First Published: Fri, May 30 2014. 23:57 IST