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Combative PM, cohesive govt take Oppn head-on

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared to be in his most combative mood during the budget session of Parliament.

columns Updated: Mar 25, 2011 22:44 IST
Pankaj Vohra

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared to be in his most combative mood during the budget session of Parliament. Whether it was having a dig at veteran BJP leader LK Advani or his two protégés—Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Singh was determined to drive home the point that he was the boss.

The Prime Minister it appeared was more than keen to dispel the impression created by the opposition that he was a weak leader who was remote controlled by his party High Command. It was very evident that he had decided to take all the contentious issues head on and lived up to his promise of having a debate “on any subject the opposition wanted’’. During his seemingly successful attempt to have an image makeover, Singh made sure that his colleagues—Pranab Mukherjee,

P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Pawan Bansal—to name a few, all batted for the government. The result was that the government had never looked as cohesive as it did in both houses of Parliament. It was in fact an earnest effort of the leader to bail out his government, which continues to be hit by a series of scams and avoidable problems. And if he earned some admirers for his robust defence of what he or his colleagues had done, it was because for the first time, the PM decided to act politically.

He took a pot shot at Advani who had turned against him since “he considered it his birthright to be the Prime Minister’’. He counseled the BJP leader to honour the mandate of the people. In case, he still had the unfulfilled ambition, he should wait for the people’s verdict in the next polls.

He acquired a new height in his stature when he admitted to his mistake in appointing P J Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. He demolished Jaitley and Swaraj by arguing that the Wikileaks information was unsubstantiated and unverified. In any case, the people in 2009 had expressed their opinion by increasing the vote share of the UPA and decreasing that of the NDA. Delhi University’s former Political Science department head, Prof. Susheela Kaushik believes that “Singh stood up to criticism extremely well and looked confident for the time being’’.

It is obvious that the more confident PM has positioned himself to carry out his Cabinet reshuffle, which he promised after the budget session. But he still has to deal with the issue with his party leadership. The question is that will he get the nod now or after the assembly polls. Or will he go ahead and pick the people of his choice for the coveted slots in his Cabinet. Having humbled the opposition with his wit, verse and controlled aggression, he has to use his charms with his own party now.