Date with the Editors
A reluctant Prime Minister 7 years ago emerged as a confident politician today at a meet with the editors of several media houses, both national and international. Dr Manmohan Singh, better known as the Father of Economic Reforms in India, had been at the receiving end of brickbats from the opposition parties and Aam Aadmy alike with the rising number of scams and inflation which astrologers would also not want to comment on. A man with impeccable integrity had been the target of many, for, a clean image could not suffice when he is the leader of a pack of thieves. It was thus expected that Dr Singh’s endeavour to talk to senior journalists would try to defuse the negative image building around him.
Here i must confess that i am a fan of the man who is unfortunately the PM of India. He has a track record which would put even Harishchandra to shame. However in the recent past, his white attire seemed to have been tarnished with shades of black. And the personal image of the man behind the PM was taking a beating.
What the press conference today seems to establish is that ManMohan Singh and The Indian Prime Minister are two different persons forced to live in bitter-sweet honeymoon. While Manmohan admitted to and accepted all charges levelled against him with regards to the inefficient handling of scams, the Prime Minister in him came up with some shoddy yet not-so-irrelevant defenses. Lets see an example.
Mr Puri of Aaj Tak asked the PM why Mr A Raja was given a second stint at the Ministry of Telecommunications.
Mr. Singh first describes his letters to Mr. Raja about the process of the 2008 spectrum allotment, and says he asked the former telecom minister to ensure that it be “fair and equitable.” Says Mr. Raja told him that TRAI hadn’t suggested an auction, a point the PM says he asked about at the time. PM says Mr. Raja told him an auction wouldn’t be fair to newcomers. PM says he did write a letter to Mr. Raja before his reappointment saying he must look into issues that had been brought to the PM about telecom policy and that these had to be looked into. “If the ministry of finance and the ministry of telecom both agree and they have the obligation…to decide that matter…if all of them were of the same view I did not feel I was in a position to insist” on an auction, Mr. Singh says.
Here we see a man who exposes his helplessness and inept performance as the head of the executive. As a Prime Minister he did not even have the authority to appoint a minister and relied on an alliance partner’s prerogative to do the needful.
“I cannot divulge what what went on in the process of Cabinet formation…you have to go by what the leader of that particular coalition party ultimately insists. Mr. Raja…was the choice of the DMK Party,” he says.”
The man of integrity seemed to be back when he showed his resolve to fight corruption and punish the guilty “this time”. However the politician in him restricted the resolve to mere rhetoric. I must admit here that actions have indeed been taken on the guilty by scrapping them off their posts, in contrast to the principal opposition party of India who seem to have learnt how to chant “law will take its own course” and “probe is on, we cannot comment”. The Prime Minister did not even term the corrupt ministers as “immoral but not illegal”. He simply expressed that he was in a position where his hands were tied and whatever he could be done in his small ambit, had indeed been done.
PM says on the ISRO case, “I have not met with anyone myself. The decision of the space commission to annul the deal was taken on the 10th of July…2nd of July,”
A significant outcome of the press meet was the revelation, which was interestingly uncontested by the opposition, that of BJP holding back reforms and blackmailing the Centre with regards to a tainted Gujarat Minister (we all know who he meant). The PM also asserted that he was not a lame duck Prime Minister, as opposed to the image BJP tries to paint. He again expressed his anguish over the non functional parliament (he said he was unaware of the reasons for parliament logjam) and said he was more than willing to appear before any committee. Of course Mr Singh has nothing to hide. Only if he had the command in his hands.
“If 7 out of 10 [decisions that I take] turn out to be correct the shareholders of a normal corporation will say a job well done,” says Mr. Singh, when asked by NDTV’s Mr. Roy whether he wishes he had pressed for an auction of spectrum in 2008.
This presser should also be a lesson for the media about how to behave when you are live in front of the nation, asking questions to the leader of the nation. Arnab Goswami, in his usual callous and speak-to-kill attitude, tried to begin interrogating the PM as if he had recently been made a member of the FBI and PM was Osama Bin Laden. Not only was his cross questioning curtailed, but PM’s media advisor also chided him for his misdemeanour.
Arnab Goswami questions him, saying how can he say there have to be compromises. “There can be no compromise with corruption,” declares Mr. Goswami before going on to his question.
Mr. Khare smacks down Mr. Goswami when he tries to interrupt PM to ask another question. “This is not an interrogation,” says Mr. Khare. “Show some courtesy.”
While the man MMS (with due respects, i am tired of typing the full name and this in no way is linked to DPS or JNU) spoke out heavily against corruption, the politician fumbled for words on what could be done about it.
मनमोहन सिंह: “बहुत सी ऐसी चीज़े हैं जो मेरे मिजाज़ के मुताबिक नहीं है”
“I can’t say I’ve never made any mistakes…but I’m not the sort of culprit that I’m being made out to be by the media.”
The Prime Minister is definitely not a culprit, neither is he a party to those who are plundering the nation. But as the Leader of the nation, we expect answers and action from him. Hope his remaining terms will show us a different facet of the man. Dr. Manmohan Singh.