New Delhi: An assertive Manmohan Singh on Wednesday dismissed the perception that he was a "lame duck" Prime Minister, a job entrusted to him by the Congress party from which he has not heard any "contrary view". (JPN/ Agencies)
"I am not helpless. All the bad things that this government has done, I accept full responsibility," he said when told of the perception that Congress President Sonia Gandhi "decides everything" and that he was helpless.
Terming the perception that his government had gone "comatose" and was "lame duck" as clever propaganda of the Opposition "to which some sections of the media had lent ear", Singh asserted that "truth will prevail" and his performance will speak.
During a 100-minute interaction with five editors at his official residence, a relaxed Prime Minister confidently fielded questions on a wide range of issues including the talk that Rahul Gandhi should take his place, the Lokpal Bill, corruption and relations with neighbouring countries.
Singh spoke of "maximum possible cooperation" that he was getting from Congress President Sonia Gandhi whom he met one-on-one every week. He had never felt that she was an "obstacle to things we want to do".
Asked about occasional statements from party functionaries that Rahul Gandhi should become Prime Minister, Singh said that the Congress Party and its President had entrusted him with this job and he had not heard any contrary view from the Congress high command.
"In fact, the Congress high command has always been most supportive, particularly Mrs Gandhi," the Prime Minister said.
He went on to add, "Personally, if you ask me, the general proposition that younger people should take over, I think, 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."
Replying to a question on the much-speculated reshuffle of his Cabinet, the Prime Minister said mere said it was a "work in progress" and gave no details.
Asked if it could take place soon, Singh replied, "I cannot predict."
On the raging controversy over the Lokpal Bill, he said the measure was essential and desirable. The country needed a strong Lokpal although it is not a "panacea".
"I, for one, have no hesitation in bringing myself under the purview of the Lokpal," he said but added that many of his Cabinet colleagues were of the view that such a move would create "an element of instability which can go out of hand".
In any case, the Prime Minister is covered by the anti-corruption act and is a 24-hour servant of the people, he said pointing out that a person holding that office can be removed by Parliament.
Singh said that he would like to be "guided" by political parties on this issue. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha and her Punjab counterpart Prakash Singh Badal had both expressed their views that this office should be kept out of Lokpal's purview.
He told the editors that he would try to find a way on the Lokpal issue and work for a national consensus. The government would reach out to the civil society but no group
can insist that their views "A to Z" are the last word.
Singh ruled out inclusion of higher judiciary in the ambit of Lokpal saying it would go contrary to the Constitutional scheme of things.
Singh said the government was committed to pursuing whatever was feasible to deal with the blackmoney, tax evasion and corruption. Nevertheless it was not a "one-shot operation", he maintained.
On the controversy over the reported bugging of the offices of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, he said the minister had complained to him and he had directed the Intelligence Bureau to look into it without the Home Minister being aware of it.
"The IB had found nothing of the sort. It is a closed chapter," Singh said.
On inflation, the Prime Minister said the government was trying to insulate the poor from high inflation without compromising on economic growth.
"We want to deal it (inflation) in a manner that the growth rhythm is not disturbed," he said.
He indicated the Reserve Bank was striking a balance between controlling inflation and economic growth.
"If we were concerned only in curbing inflation we would have done with pursuing tighter monetary policies.(But)..if in the process the growth rate gets hurt that would not do our country any good", the Prime Minister said.
New Delhi: An assertive Manmohan Singh on Wednesday dismissed the perception that he was a "lame duck" Prime Minister, a job entrusted to him by the Congress party from which he has not heard any "contrary view".