New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh defended himself on Wednesday against accusations his government was a lameduck, saying it was trying to bring justice in some of the country’s biggest corruption scandals in decades.
“Whatever some people may say, that we are a lame duck government, that I am a lame duck prime minister, we take our job very seriously,” Singh said in a rare media roundtable with TV editors aimed at improving his worsening image.
“We are a strong coalition and there is no danger of inner tension leading to break-up, our allies are with us whole-heartedly,” he said. “We are here to govern, and to govern effectively. Tackle the problems as they arise and get this country moving forward.”
“I wish to assure the country as a whole our government is dead serious to bring to book all the wrongdoers regardless of their position in 2G spectrum, CWG, ISRO and Adarsh scams,” said PM.
The 78-year-old Singh has been under increasing pressure to stamp out on corruption and his decision-making appears to have been paralysed in his second term despite winning re-election with an increased majority.
The scandals have taken a heavy toll on Singh, concerning his legacy is transforming from one of being the founders of India’s economic boom to someone who did nothing to stop corruption or policy paralysis.
Singh may have hoped the current scandals would ebb. But an aggressive media, an assertive Supreme Court and an opposition tasting political blood have seen momentum into the corruption probes grow.
But clarifying his stand regarding the 2G scam PM said “In allocation of 2G spectrum, the issue of licences were never brought to me or the Cabinet.” “Complaints were coming in (against A Raja), but I was not in a position to make up my mind if anything was seriously wrong, says PM on his re-induction in Cabinet also since Raja had assured him transparency.
Attacking his critics, the PM also stated that he was not afraid of appearing before any committee, including joint parliament committee.
Policy making has also been in limbo since his re-election in 2009 as the government battles fires from inflation to graft scandals. Reforms like opening up retail and the financial sector to foreign investment have been put on the backburner.
The last parliamentary session was halted by opposition protests demanding a probe into the telecoms scam, effectively stopping any reform bills like one to make land acquisition easier for both industry and farmers.
The government appeared close to agreeing to a broad, cross-party investigation in the scandal, paving the way for parliament to resume as normal for a Feb. 21 budget session, and Singh said he would press ahead with reforms.
“We have not given up, we will persist (on reforms). There are difficulties, particularly when government is not allowed to function.”
“We have important legislation, apart from the budget, to put before parliament,” Singh said. “And talks are going on with the opposition parties to ensure that whatever our differences, parliament should be able to function normally.”
“You will see a cleaner picture of reforms agenda in the Budget,” said Singh. “After the Budget Session of Parliament, there will be a restructuring of the Cabinet.”
PM also assured that the Indian economy is in good shape though inflation is a problem but he expects it to fall to 7% this fiscal. The government is trying to deal with it in a manner that the growth rythm is not disturbed and he expects the country’s growth to rise at 8.5%. “Disproportionate rise of food prices hurt poor people but we have tried to insulate them,” he said.