New Delhi (JPN): Addressing the editors of the electronic media at 7 Race Course, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday called spade a spade that his government would bring the wrongdoers to book but ruled out quitting from his post. 

He asserted that his government was not lameduck nor was he a lameduck Prime Minister and it was a functioning government that would go after the scamsters.

Lauding media’s role for inviting attention to aberrations of allocation of 2G spectrum, Commonwealth Games and developments in the Adarsh Housing Society case, he said, "Media has played an important role in these issues which require corrective action," said the Prime Minister.

Dead serious against wrongdoers

In his opening address to the press conference, PM Manmohan Singh assured that a stern action will be taken against the wrongdoers.

“I wish to assure the country as a whole our government is dead serious to bring to book all the wrongdoers regardless of their position in 2G spectrum, CWG, ISRO and Adarsh scams,” he said

About re-induction of Raja despite complaints, he said in a coalition, it was not in his hands about whom to be inducted from a coalition partner. "You cannot suggest your preferences and you have to go by the choice of the leader of the party.

"Raja and Dayanidhi Maran were the choice of DMK and I had no reason to feel that anything seriously wrong has been done. I did not feel that I had the authority to object to Raja's entry although complaints were coming from some companies who were not benefitted and some who had not benefitted adequately. I was not in a position to make up my mind about Raja", he said.

"I am not afraid of appearing before any Committee, including JPC, I will be quite happy to appear before any committee," says PM.

PM asserted he was not aware of the methodology of the controversial First-Come, First-Serve (FCFS) policy followed for 2G spectrum allocation by disgraced former Telecom Minister A Raja, which resulted in a huge scam estimated to be up to Rs 1.76 lakh crore.

"Who got the licences... how FCFS was implemented, this was never discussed with me nor was it brought to the Cabinet. This was exclusively Telecom Minister's decision," Singh said during the interaction.

Inflation to slip to 7 per cent

Exuding confidence on the pace of country’s growth, PM said that inflation will fall to seven per cent by March-end.

He said that the government was trying to tackle the situation without hurting growth, which he pegged at around 8.5 per cent for the entire fiscal.

PM added that the government is trying to strike a balance between growth and inflation, despite the government having no control over international events, which are partly fuelling the price rise.

Asked about surging inflation, PM said, “We have to deal with it in a manner that the growth rhythm is not disturbed. Parliament has not been allowed to function for reasons I am not able to understand, we are making honest efforts to see the next session will be an orderly session.”

He said inflation, particularly that of food, has been a major concern in recent months, but the government was trying to deal the situation without hurting growth prospects.

Food inflation has been hovering above 15 per cent in the past few months before falling to 13.07 per cent in the last week of January.

Disproportionate rise of food prices hurt poor people but we have tried to insulate them, said PM.

ISRO-Devas deal

On the controversial deal between Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO and a private firm Devas for allocation of S-band spectrum, Singh said the deal has not been operationalised and the Cabinet Committee on Security would soon take a decision on terminating it, a decision on which was taken on July two last year.

He also rebutted reports that the PMO was involved in back channel discussions as late as November last year with Devas even as a decision was taken to terminate it.

"I have not talked to anybody.... The PMO has not talked to anybody. The German Foreign Minister who had a meeting with me did not raise this issue."
 He said different departments including the Law Ministry have recommended termination of the contract but there were only procedural delays in implementing it.

On governance deficit

To a question on Home Minister P Chidambaram's comments on governance deficit, he admitted, "obviously, some events have brought out the weaknesses in governance and processes, I think we need to improve the quality of governance. But that does not divide me and other members of the government."

He rejected a questioner's suggestion that his government was facing double-incumbency of attacks from the opposition and within the party.

"I do not get that impression (party not backing him). In a democracy, there are views and discussions and when decisions are taken, our party stands united in support of the government.

"I would like a cohesive party to support the government but I am not saying it is not happening," he said.

Stand on next PM

To a specific question whether he would be ready to be projected as Prime Ministerial candidate in the next elections, Singh said "it is too early. We still have a long way to go. I have to complete this term. It is too premature to speculate who would be the Prime Ministerial candidate."

He was asked whether he was feeling bad as certain embarrassing things were happening which were not in tune with his nature.

"I have looked upon life as a learning and re-learning process. It has been a great educational experience from civil service to academic world to political world. This process of learning, I relish that", he replied.

When told that he was an honest Prime Minister surrounded by dishonest administration and a sense of drift was prevailing, he said after the budget session, there will be a restructuring and reshuffling of his cabinet.

"I will get back to the exercise once the budget session is over", he said.

Reforms in Budget 2011-12

Prime Minister assured that there would be more reforms in Budget, but blamed the opposition for delaying the introduction of crucial Bills in Parliament.

"No, we have not given up on reforms. We will persist... I sincerely hope in the (upcoming) Budget we will see a clearer picture of the reform agenda," Singh said.

Singh blamed the opposition for the delay in introduction of the Constitution Amendment Bill on Goods and Service Tax, saying,

"When the Parliament is not allowed to function, when the Opposition do not wish to cooperate with the path-breaking reforms of Goods and Services Tax (GST). This is a reform which is needed."

“The Opposition, particularly the BJP, has taken a very hostile attitude," he added.

He reiterated that the government has been working on a host of reform initiatives, some of which have already been successful.

"We are working on a Food Security Bill, the Right to Education is now a reality... The ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) is a reality... and also the National Rural Health Mission," Singh said.

He further said: "In the same way, I believe we are going to have a fresh wave of infrastructure investment with the help of PPP (public-private partnership) model."

Battling with scams and scandals, skyrocketing prices and plummeting image of the UPA-government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided to put his brave foot forward. He participated in a live broadcast with editors of TV news channels today and has answered a blizzard of questions, in what could be an attempt to clear cloud before the budget session.

The opposition still seems to be unyielding as LK Advani went on record saying he pitied the Prime minister for being weak.

The Prime Minister fended off questions on 2G spectrum, JPC, S-band spectrum, succumbing to allies’ pressure, Adarsh scam, sheepish posture on radio-tagged treatment on TVU students and much more.

 

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