Even as the Election Commission's 2-1 vote rejecting a demand to disqualify Congress President Sonia Gandhi as an MP for receiving an award from Belgium is pending a final decision by the President, the Belgian embassy on Monday cleared the air about the controversy, saying the award was a "honorary decoration" and did not denote that the recipient of the award had sworn allegiance to Belgium.
The official drew a distinction between conferring an honorary award and conferring nobility on the recipient. In Sonia Gandhi's case, "to accept the honorary decoration does not mean any kind of allegiance to Belgium", the official said.
In 2006, Belgium conferred the "Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold", the country's second highest civilian award, on Sonia Gandhi for her "constructive nationalism."
Some of the previous recipients of the award have been Yugoslavia leader Josip Broz Tito, former US President Dwight Eisenhower and decorated US generals -- George Patton and Wesley Clark.
The Congress had earlier welcomed the EC's rejection of the demand to disqualify Sonia Gandhi.
On Monday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the controversy about Sonia Gandhi accepting the Belgian award was a non-issue. BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said: "It (the EC giving clean chit to Gandhi on Belgian award issue) is a dead issue for us."
According to the Election Commission rules, in the event of a difference of opinion among the three Election Commissioners, the majority view prevails. Hence, in this case, the dissenting view of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N Gopalaswami, who steps down as the CEC on Monday, will be overruled.