`Manmohan Singh best person for the PM job`

Khurshid maintained that Manmohan Singh has provided leadership at a time when there are "dark clouds" about the Indian economy.

New Delhi: Rubbishing all criticism of Manmohan Singh being a weak Prime Minister, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid on Sunday said he is the best person for the job and has provided "thoughtful, philosophical" leadership in uncertain times.

"I don`t think we could have had a better person in these times when we have been under stress...That we have had a lot of questions raised about how India should be governed and how it is being governed," Khurshid told a news channel during an interview.

He maintained that Singh has provided leadership at a time when there are "dark clouds" about the Indian economy, the monsoon, and on how the country moves forward with important economic changes.

"Singh is the best person we could have had," he said.

Asked about problems with allies like Trinamool Congress and how Singh had failed to stand up to them, Khurshid said he alone could not be held responsible.

Sections of the Indian and foreign press have criticised Singh as a weak Prime Minister. After Congress failed to convince Trinamool Congress on FDI in retail, the Wall Street Journal had said Singh`s "humiliation is complete".

"That is not just the Prime Minister. If our allies have a problem moving as fast in a particular direction as we want to take, it is not just for the Prime Minister but for the government. Let us not segregate the Prime Minister from the party and the party from the government. We are all in it together," Khurshid said.

The Law Minister said there could be differences with allies but "we come together to find exactly what is to be done and he leads from the front".

Khurshid said leaders have different styles of leading and the Prime Minister should be judged accordingly. He said Singh is gentle and refuted that he is ignored by his ministers.

The minister said some decisions cannot be taken in a particular landscape.

"Dr Manmohan Singh does not fire from the hip. He is a person who gives you thoughtful, philosophical leadership...He leads in cabinet meetings. Some people do not want to take credit for what they do," Khurshid said.
Asked why he was not defending Singh on the charges of lack of leadership, he shot back, "Why should I defend the PM when the PM does not need a defence?"

Denying any major differences with West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool head Mamata Banerjee, who has openly differed with the government on FDI in retail, Teesta water sharing with Bangladesh and other issues, Khurshid said, "You don`t now how good our relations are...Wait till Christmas."

He maintained that Banerjee has a very important role "for herself and the country in Bengal".
"She is restructuring Bengal after years of governance by Left. She has the right to restructure Bengal the way she wants and we must respect it," Khurshid said.

He insisted Banerjee does not have the power of "veto" on the UPA`s decisions.

"There is sensitivity (towards her views). We either take her with us or we do not. We have chosen to take her with us as a colleague and a partner," Khurshid said.

The Law Minister also denied that Congress allies are "whipping" it.

"There are no whips except on the floor of the House, believe me. We do have differences of perception with her (Banerjee) but we also have a strong bond of partnership and we want to keep that bond alive," Khurshid said.

Making light of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s decision to meet Banerjee before meeting the Prime Minister, Khurshid said, "Nothing wrong with that. What`s wrong if Hillary thinks her (Banerjee`s) views should be incorporated?"

He accepted that 2011 has not been the best year for the UPA-II government.

"But it is part of growing up, part of the landscape of what is happening in the world. India is becoming a densely argumentative country which is a good thing. Democracy is opening up people`s minds. They are becoming more demanding, expectations are growing," Khurshid said.

Asked about the alleged policy paralysis and differences with allies on issues like FDI in retail, Khurshid said, "Do you think you will get a yes answer from me? Obviously you wouldn`t...But it is tough. Administering this country in our present times is very tough but our government is doing a good job."

He confessed that the government would not have liked to see certain things happen but that have "happened not because of us but inspite of us".

"We now need to weed them out of our system," he said, adding, "Governing India is undoubtedly becoming tougher."

Khurshid said a government does not always meet its reasonable targets. "If we are taking a longer time to do what we would have liked to do in a shorter time, that is a fact of life," he said.

He said the government is still working on building a consensus for FDI in retail. "We believe that it is good for the country," he said.


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