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“I am not a ‘lame-duck' Prime Minister”

Special Correspondent

So long as I am here I have a job to do, says Manmohan


NEW DELHI: At his interaction with some editors here on Wednesday, Manmohan Singh characterised the perception that he is a “lame- duck” Prime Minister running a “comatose” government as a “clever propaganda” of the Opposition to which some sections of the media had lent an ear. “I am not helpless. All the bad things that this government has done, I accept full responsibility.”

As for voices from senior Congress functionaries that the time had come for Rahul Gandhi to take over as Prime Minister, Dr. Singh maintained that the Congress president and the party had entrusted him with the job, and he had not heard any “contrarian view.”

However, he went on to add, “Personally, if you ask me, the general proposition that younger people should take over … is the right sentiment.” Whenever the party “makes up its mind I will be very happy to step down, but so long as I am here I have a job to do.”

“Congress high command supportive”

Dr. Singh told the editors that he got the “maximum possible cooperation” from Congress president Sonia Gandhi, whom he meets one-on-one every week. He had never felt that she was an obstacle to things his government wanted to do. “In fact, the Congress high command has always been most supportive, particularly Mrs. Gandhi.”

Answering a question on the much anticipated reshuffle of his Cabinet, the Prime Minister said it was a “work in progress.” Asked whether it could take place soon, Dr. Singh replied: “I cannot predict.”

On the Lokpal issue, Dr. Singh maintained that his government was committed to introducing a Bill in the winter session of Parliament even before it engaged a section of civil society on this matter. While it would continue to engage civil society in framing the legislation, no group could insist that their views “A to Z” were the last word.

“Lokpal not a panacea”

Dr. Singh insisted that while the Lokpal was essential and desirable, it was not a “panacea.” Asked about the debate on whether or not the Prime Minister should be under the purview of the Lokpal, he said: “I, for one, have no hesitation in bringing myself under the purview of the Lokpal,” but added that many of his Cabinet colleagues felt that such a move would create “an element of instability which can go out of hand.”

Ruling out the inclusion of the higher judiciary in the ambit of the Lokpal, Dr. Singh told the editors that his government would work for a national consensus.

Dr. Singh told the editors:

“We can deal with corruption, we can deal with black money, but quite frankly it is wrong for anyone to assume there is a magic wand which will lead to an instant solution to of these difficult societal problems.

“We need system reforms. If the project Nandan Nilankani has promised to design, if the UIDAI can give unique ID numbers to all our residents, we would have discovered a new pathway to eliminate the scope for corruption and leakages in the management and distribution of various subsidies to which our people are entitled. But it will take time. It cannot be done instantly.”

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