Manmohan says not a lame duck PM; ready to face JPC probe on 2G
Moneylife Digital Team 16 February 2011

In an address to TV editors, prime minister says he was restricted by the compulsions of the coalition government and that he did not take quicker action on 2G as he did not think there was anything wrong at that time

 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today underlined that he would stay in office to take the reforms process forward, while denying that a series of corruption scandals had made him a lame duck leader.

Allegations that the government may have lost up to Rs1,76,000 crore in revenues on account of allocation of 2G spectrum at very low prices in return for kickbacks have rocked the government, practically paralysed Parliament and worried the stock markets.

"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," Dr Singh, said at a media roundtable with TV editors. "We are here to govern, and to govern effectively. Tackle the problems as they arise and get this country moving forward."

The prime minister denying talk about his possible resignation is further indication of the impact that the scandals have had on his second term in office, after being re-elected with an increased majority in 2009.

He said that things were not entirely the way he would like them to be, "but quite frankly I never felt like resigning because I have a job to do."

The prime minister has said it before and he repeated it today that he was not afraid of appearing before any committee, including a Joint Parliamentary Committee. "This is an entirely wrong impression that I was the one blocking the agreement on a JPC," he said.

To a question about what was his biggest regret in UPA-II, Dr Singh said that "these irregularities have happened. They should not have happened. I am not very happy about these developments".

He virtually disagreed with the calculations of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the loss figure in the 2G scam, saying the CAG itself had called it presumptive. There are various methods of computing the figures, he said and went on to question whether the Rs80,000 crore being spent on foodgrains subsidy, Rs60,000 crore on fertilisers and subsidy on kerosene could be called a loss.

The prime minister's remarks got an immediate response from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the principal opposition party, which said that his statements were disappointing and showed his helplessness. "In a way, an effort has been made to cover up the corruption. He has accused the media and opposition of spreading misinformation while maintaining that all is well. He has expressed his helplessness," Nitin Gadkari, president of the BJP, said.

The prime minister tried to reassure the country that his government would deal with the scandals effectively. "I wish to assure you and I wish to assure the country as a whole that our government is dead serious in bringing to book all the wrongdoers, regardless of the position they may occupy."

On the scandals, he said that as far as who gets licences, the first-come-first-served policy, how it is implemented, "that was never discussed with me." Dr Singh said that licences were not a matter which ever got referred to him or the cabinet. "That was a decision exclusively of the telecoms ministry."

The prime minister has been criticised frequently for his apparent indecision on various matters and he has also been hampered by an impression that Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi wields the real power. And today, there came some explanation for the indecision as when he was asked why he did not act quickly on the problems in the allocation of telecom licenses and on the reappointment of former telecommunications minister A Raja.

"In a coalition government you can suggest your preferences, but you have to go by what the leader of that coalition partner ultimately insists. Raja ... was the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) party choice and at that moment I had no reason frankly speaking that anything seriously wrong had been done."

"I did not feel I had the authority to object to Mr Raja's entry because quite honestly in May 2009, although complaints were coming in, although complaints were coming from all sides, some from companies not benefitting (from the telecoms spectrum allocation) ... I was not in a position to make up my mind that anything seriously was wrong," he said.

The Indian stock market is down nearly 11% this year, the worst performer among Asian markets, due to the scandals that have worried investors. Foreign investors have pulled out huge amounts from the market recently, while foreign direct investment has fallen over the past three years. This is also due to the global economic slowdown, but uncertainty is a major factor.

"This sort of atmosphere is not good. It saps our own self-confidence. It also spoils the image of India," Dr Singh said, but he denied they had hurt FDI. "It is not our mistake. The international situation is such that funds are moving out of emerging markets. We are today functioning in an environment where what happens outside affects us. Therefore, it is not easy to say that what happens to fund flow is entirely a function of our policy."

Policymaking has suffered severely after the last parliamentary session was totally disrupted by opposition protests demanding a probe into the telecoms scam. But today, the prime minister promised clearer measures in the forthcoming budget, saying, "We have not given up, we will persist. There are difficulties, particularly when Parliament is not allowed to function. I think Parliament is not able to perform its essential function, being a forum for legislation."
On inflation that has hit the common citizen hard, Dr Singh said, "We want to deal with it (inflation) in a manner that the growth rhythm is not disturbed. If we were concerned only in curbing inflation we could have done with pursuing tighter monetary policies...if in the process the growth rate gets hurt that would not do our country any good."

Rejecting criticism that the government has given up on economic reforms, the prime minister said, "I sincerely hope in the (upcoming) Budget we will see a clearer picture of the reform agenda."

Hinting at big initiatives for infrastructure development, he said: "I believe we are going to have a fresh wave of infrastructure investment with the help of PPP (public-private partnership) model." He said discussions were going on to create an infrastructure development fund and that finance minister Pranab Mukherjee may make some announcements.

It has been estimated that India needs investment to the tune of over a trillion dollars in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) to sustain a growth rate of 8-9%. When asked where the country would mop up such resources from, Dr Singh said, "We must create a viable corporate debt market. I think that is the direction in which we must move."

1 decade ago
Dr.Singh on the one hand says he is hobbled by coalition dharma, and yet on the other hand he asserts "we will be positive", "we won't give up", "coming budget will see return of reform agenda" etc. As the head of the council of ministers, who will believe him when he says he lacked authority to curtail Raja's escapades? If he is so powerless, how is he going to achieve all that he seems to promise!!
Rajan Manchanda
1 decade ago
It is just un imaginable how Mr. Prime Minister is able to tolerate all the fraudulent deals. Being a good honest clean human is not good enough. He should ensure the whole system is cleansed. we all Indians look up to him to make us feel proud. We hope he will not loose out to weed out corruption.
Being humble is good but he should not literally believe "to err is human,to forgive divine" The corrupt believe "to err is human, to loot divine"
It's time he uses the whip !
1 decade ago
Mr. PM, If u r not a lame duck, why is there any need to clarify about it. Ur clean image has been badly tarnished by the coterie (read colleagues) around u.
Nobody doubts ur credentials but as the old saying goes " A man is known by the company he keeps", u cannot afford to loose ur status as the cleanest PM so far.
1 decade ago
What a new defenition for subsidiaries was given by MMS. The famous economist that he is, now compares the ones given to kerosene or fertilizers to spectrum owners who talk only interms of billions. So aam admi is equvalent to Tatas , Anil Ambani etc.
K Narayanan
1 decade ago
Sushma said she would shave her head if Sonia became the PM.The clever Sonia kept MMSingh as front man whose personal integrity is beyond doubt and gets things done accordingly to her wish.MMSingh was categorical in his statement that it was coalition compulsion that made him a silent spectator and who decides the coalition -of course Sonia.Sushmaji-don't blame MMSingh-if you have guts attack Sonia directly.MMSingh is a helpless man.If he resigns we will not get a better PM.
Replied to K Narayanan comment 1 decade ago
what do u mean by better PM. If the honest PM is unable to act what is the point of his honesty. See what has happend crores have been looted in front of his eyes and he is just writing letters and memo`s.
Vijay Advani
1 decade ago
Mr. Manmohan Singh's intergrity, honesty & excellent policies cannot be questioned. He is doing his best to solve the nation's problems, but like in any system, he will have to put in place effective 'checks & balances' to plug the various loop-holes. When there are loop-holes, it is prone to being mis-used by un-scrupulous elements ranging from politicians, businessmen, underworld & even ordinary citizens. Putting in an effective system of 'checks & balances' is a daunting task, and the present situation should propel Mr. Manmohan Singh to move forward at a fast pace.
K Narayanan
1 decade ago
Wah!! What a new definition for "dharma".
It is saddening to note that our country of dharma and rich culture has degenerated under our able PM(but puppet of Italian lady) and dharma has been redefined.
What is DHARMA-coalition dharma.Let the country be looted but be a silent spectator as the loot is done by the coalition partner and faithfully adhere to dharma.
The country may sooner or later become a banana republic thanks to the politicians becoming global
citizens and stashing wealth anywhere in the world.With globilsation the word patriotic has new meaning for our politicians.
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