On Board PM's Special Plane: Facing persistent attacks from BJP leader L K Advani, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday asked him to "avoid harsh words" even as he wished success to his yatra. Singh also refused to get drawn into whether Advani had Prime Ministerial capabilities, saying it was for the people of the country to decide.

"On foreign soil, I am not going to criticise any national leader," the Prime Minister told journalists when asked to comment on Advani's repeated attacks on him.

The BJP leader on only Tuesday described Singh as the "weakest Prime Minister" and said he had "pity" on him. Singh, who was talking while returning from his three-day visit to South Africa, said he wishes "Mr Advani a successful yatra".

At the same time, the Prime Minister said he hoped that Advani did not use language which at times "appears to be intemperate" In politics, it is better to avoid harsh words".

Anna campaign has served purpose

   
Noting that Anna Hazare's movement has "served its purpose", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government was working to put in place an effective Lokpal which would be an assurance to people that corruption "cannot flourish as a way of life".

He said corruption was hurting development, governance besides the poor people and his government was committed to "clean up the system".

"Well, I would not like to use this opportunity to criticise any individual," he told journalists when asked whether Hazare had been "unfair" by continuously attacking him and his government.

"I think, Anna Hazareji's movement has served its purpose. We are all working to ensure that we have in place before long an effective Lokpal," Singh added while talking to accompanying journalists on his way back home from Pretoria where he attended the India-Brazil-south Africa (IBSA) Summit.

He said the government expected Parliament to vote for an effective Lokpal Bill "which will be an assurance to the people that corruption cannot flourish as a way of life."

He emphasised that his government is "committed to all that is necessary to clean up the system."

The Prime Minister also condemned the physical attack on Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal in Lucknow yesterday, saying there are civilised ways to express "anger and frustration" by anybody.

To a question on RTI, he maintained that he had never said that there should be any dilution of the Act. "There are certain ways in which things can be done. All I said is that we should reflect how to achieve in totality the purposes for which RTI was set up. I never said we are going to change RTI (Act)," he clarified.

Differences bound to happen in coalition

Prime Minister sought to downplay Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's critical remarks on UPA-II and said the government was functioning with the "coherence" required to carry out its mandate.

"We are in a coalition government. In a coalition government, there are bound to be differences," he said when referred to certain comments made by NCP leader Pawar and the attitude of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on various issues.

He said the "real test is that we should not allow these differences to undermine cohesiveness of the government." Singh, who was talking to accompanying journalists on way back from Pretoria, added, "You have my assurance that despite different perspectives that various members of the coalition may have, managing the Cabinet of the UPA has never been a difficult task.

"Our government functions with coherence which it needs to carry  out the mandate given by the people."

Replying to questions on contention of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik that the Centre was not heeding to its demands, the Prime Minister asserted that his government does not discriminate against any state and treats all on even keel.

To a question on Bihar's request for declaring it a special category state, Singh said the categorization of the states is something which is to be decided in the National Development Council.

Khurshid statement 'stray thoughts'

Prime Minister described as "stray thoughts" Law Minister Salman Khurshid's statement that keeping top business executives in jail could hurt investments. He said legal remedies were available if anybody is gets on the "wrong side" of the law.

Singh also said that Ministers "sometimes take advantage" of the democracy by making comments such as 'judicial interventions in policy-making' even as he observed that different arms of Constitution - the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary - should follow their "Constitutional dharma" to ensure that things are alright.

"Well, it would not be proper for me to comment on the stray thoughts of what my Minister has said," Singh said when asked about his views on Khurshid's statement that the investment climate could be affected if top business executives were locked up in jails.

He noted that "there are legal remedies available in our system.  Whenever anybody gets on the wrong side of the law, and he or she is put behind bars, there are legal ways to get redressal."

When his attention was drawn to comments by some ministers about 'judicial interventions in policy-making', Singh said, "Well, as I said, we are a functioning democracy, and therefore Ministers sometimes take advantage of that to express opinions.

"But as a government, we have high respect and high regard for judiciary and it is my sincere belief that the Constitution has laid down the path which the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary should follow. And if all of us follow the Constitutional dharma, I think things would turn out to be all right."

Inflation will be down by year-end

Prime Minister expressed confidence that inflation would come down by the year end and the country will have high growth of 8-8.5 per cent despite adverse global economic situation.

He said the government will have to use all instruments, including monetary and fiscal measures, to ensure "credible price behaviour" and ensure steady flow of investments to prevent any adverse impact of the economic crisis in Europe on India.

Noting that the 12th Five Year Plan has the targeted economic growth of about 9 per cent, Singh said "it is difficult in the present world situation" but he believed it is achievable if more emphasis is laid on development of infrastructure, health and skill development.

Talking about inflation, he said the meeting he had held last Saturday with top officials, including Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, RBI Governor Subbarao and PMEAC C Rangarajan was aimed at discussing steps that could be taken to check price rise.

Giving an overview of how the government planned to curb inflation, Singh said, "we have several instruments, the monetary policy instruments, the fiscal policy instrument, public distribution instruments. We have to use all these instruments together to bring about a credible price behaviour."

On criticism of the RBI's monetary policy, the Prime Minister refused to comment, saying it would not be proper on his part as the subject is the "preserve" of the Reserve Bank.

Asked about the impact of economic crisis in Europe and other developed countries on India, he said, "we have to ensure that the ill winds from abroad do not affect the growth processes in our country adversely, and for that it is very essential that we maintain the tempo of investment, particularly investment in the infrastructure sector, investment in agriculture, investment in energy saving technologies."

About his expectations from the Cannes Summit of G-20 countries taking place early next month, the Prime Minister said the developed countries, particularly the Eurozone countries, ought to come up with "credible measures" to resolve the crisis of the sovereign debt "which now is becoming a major global concern".

PM returns home

Prime Minister on Wednesday night returned home after a three-day visit to South Africa where he attended the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Summit that voiced concern over the global economic and political turmoil.

Singh, who left the capital on Monday for Pretoria, held bilateral talks with South African President Jacob Zuma and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff during his stay there and discussed ways to enhance all-round relations, particularly in trade.

Addressing the 5th Summit of the bloc, Singh, joined by Zuma and Russell, cautioned that economic crisis in developed countries could affect developing nations and pressed for urgent steps by Europe and other advanced economies to prevent "double-dip" recession.

(JPN/Agencies)