PM speaks in two voices on Lokpal

PM speaks in two voices on Lokpal

No problem with Rahul taking charge

PM speaks in two voices on Lokpal

Breaking his silence over a range of issues during an interaction with select editors of the print and electronic media, Singh, who is faced with mo­unting criticism of his government and of his own performance, however, said that a strong Lokpal was not a “pan­acea” even though he felt that the country needed an institution of ombudsman.

Claiming that he was no “lame duck” prime minister, Singh dismissed reports about differences between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and he, saying that he was “in full command” of his government.

This is the second time in a span of four months that the pri­me minister has found it exp­edient to directly address speculation about his own status and whether the Congress-led government would be able to right itself and address a litany of problems facing the coalition and the country.

Indicating that he had no objection to Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi becoming prime minister, Singh said he was not averse to a “younger le­a­dership”.  In the context of re­ferences that he is a lame du­ck prime minister, Singh said he had been entrusted with the job by the Congress party from which he has not heard “any contrary view”.

He said the negative references were a clever propaganda of the Opposition “to which some sections of the media had lent ear”. Confirming that a reshuffle of his cabinet was underway, Singh, declined to give any indication of the magnitude of the exercise or its timing. “It’s a work in progress,” he said when asked about widespread speculation that the Cabinet would be reshuffled early next month.

Refusing to say if it wo­uld be a major or a minor exercise, the prime minister said “I cannot predict” when it would take place. Singh skirted a query on dropping of DMK leader and Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran from the Cabinet in the proposed revamp of his council of ministers.

Asked about doubts being raised about the stability of his government, particularly in the light of problems with DMK, Singh said, “We have some points of tension but nobody wants an election.”

On the police action against the yoga guru Ramdev earlier this month, he said it was “inevitable” but maintained that he respected all civil society members and a convergence on controversial issues could be reached.  The prime minister said it was his decision to send ministers to receive the yoga guru at the Delhi airport.

Asked if Hazare was naive or politically motivated, the prime minister said it was not good to question the motives of those the government is negotiating with.

Asserting that his government was committed to deal with black money, tax evasion and corruption, Singh said it would not be a “one-shot operation”. Singh acknowledged that the telecom and the CWG scams and other perceived cases of corruption had caused genuine concern to the middle class and assured that the guilty would be punished.

In his opening remarks, Singh said there was a growing perception in the media that the government was under siege and was not being able to implement its agenda. He then went on to hit out at the media for having become “accuser, prosecutor and the judge”.

Manmohan speak

* Says he has no hesitation in bringing his office under the purview of the Lokpal, but some of his Cabinet colleagues were of a different opinion
* He claimed that a strong Lokpal was not a “panacea” but felt that the country needed an institution of ombudsman
* Insists he is in ‘full command’ of the government and dismisses reports of differences between Sonia Gandhi and himself
* Cabinet reshuffle is underway but ‘cannot predict’ when it will take place
* Some points of tension with UPA ally DMK, but nobody wants an election
* Carefully avoids criticising civil society leaders like Gandhian Anna Hazare, but defends police action against yoga guru Ramdev

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