PM rules out retirement, says no disconnect with Congress
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Last Updated: Monday, September 06, 2010, 23:52
  
Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Rejecting reports of a disconnect between the Congress party and his government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday made it clear that he was not thinking of retiring and indicated that he would "look at options" of a Cabinet reshuffle before the winter session of Parliament beginning Nov 7.

A characteristically gentle but firm Prime Minister made it clear that there was no "drift" in the government. "Allowing people to express their views is not necessarily a sign of drift," he said.

In an 80-minute interaction with a group of editors at his official residence here, Singh indicated that he would "look at" options of a Cabinet reshuffle prior to the next Parliament session beginning Nov 7. "I would like to reduce the average age of my Cabinet."

The Prime Minister's remarks came in the backdrop of perceptions in the media and political circles that there was a disconnect between him and the Congress and criticism that his ministers were openly airing their differences with each other.

Allowing for diversity of opinions, the Prime Minister said it was necessary for the Cabinet and the government to function with a "certain degree of cohesion".

He saw nothing wrong in the expression of different points of view by his ministers and Congress functionaries because India was a democracy. Moreover, the Congress was a mass movement in which people express their views, he said.

Expression of differing view points was "not necessarily a bad thing". It was necessary, however, that the Cabinet and the government functioned with a "certain degree of cohesion", Singh said.

"I can't say I will shut up every colleague," he stressed. Issues are debated and ministers abide by the decisions taken thereafter, he said, adding that during his six years in power his cabinet had met almost every week.

"My own concern is that if we come across any instance in my Council of Ministers, where I think serious issues of corruption are involved, I will take action. I have an obligation to take action and I will do that," he said.

He then went on to refer to the allocation of Spectrum in which Telecom Minister A Raja allegations and said, "I did take adequate precaution. It is true that the public perception in some circles at least is that I did not succeed.

"But I am quite clear in my mind I did take account of what was appearing in the media where the conduct of a particular minister was being questioned. Now the matter is still sub-judice. I would not like to comment on that."

He underlined that his Cabinet functioned with a "much greater degree of cohesion" than even the first Cabinet headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.

There was almost daily exchange of letters between Nehru and his deputy Sardar Patel. There were differences between Indira Gandhi and her deputy Morarji Desai, he pointed out.

During Mrs. Gandhi's time a group of "Young Turks" led by Chandrashekhar openly constituted a dissident group, the Prime Minister said during the interaction that turned into a virtual press conference covering major domestic political issues, economy and foreign policy.

A questioner suggested that he gave "an impression of marking time with the issue of succession in your party" while Rahul Gandhi was "spreading wings" and that he may not not complete his tenure.

Singh responded with a chuckle, "I think politics is a competitive game and some people or politicians feel that they should not be in the Opposition but they should be in the place where I am sitting. I don't think you can hold that against me."

The Prime Minister answered questions on the recent Supreme Court order that foodgrains must be distributed free to the poor instead of being allowed to rot in the open, the Naxal problem, state of the economy, Kashmir situation and on foreign policy.

He made it clear that it would not be possible to distribute foodgrains free to the poor and suggested that the apex court should not go into the realm of policy formulation.

On Kashmir, Singh said a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by him would be held later this week to discuss the issue "threadbare".

About the Naxal problem, he said it was "more menacing than ever before" and required to be tackled in two ways-- addressing valid economic and social issues and also enforcing law and order.

"I think, quite frankly, there is no royal road to success in dealing either Naxalism or the intricate problems in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

Admitting that there had been lapses and delays in preparing for the Commonwealth games here, Singh said that everyone must now work together to ensure the success of the games.

Instead of finding fault at this stage, everyone must work together so that "we are proud" of hosting the games, he told a group of editors here.

-Agencies inputs


First Published: Monday, September 06, 2010, 23:52


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