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Gave fairly direct idea of his stand

The Prime Minister did the right thing by organising this news conference. Arnab Goswami writes.

delhi Updated: Feb 17, 2011 00:32 IST
Arnab Goswami

The Prime Minister did the right thing by organising this news conference. The government has faced a lot of flak following the series of media exposes on corruption starting last summer, and this interaction was necessary.

It gives us a fairly direct idea of where he personally stands on the numerous issues that have raised questions of political accountability.

I got a strong sense that he anticipated my question on the ISRO-Devas deal. I asked him what he thought of reports that people in and around the PMO were talking to Devas even after the decision to annul the deal was taken. In response, the PM read out the background of the deal and added that he had not spoken to any Devas official.

I followed up by pointing out that it was officials, and not the PM himself, who were reported to be talking to the company. As an issue of accountability of public functionaries and the red lines that must be drawn, the issue of national significance and I hope the PM will follow through.

I wish there were more questions allowed. Perhaps the worry among some officials was that the questions would get progressively more tricky, but that was not an apprehension the PM himself had. Dr Singh himself over-ruled his officials who were trying to stop questions, and was ready to take as many questions as possible to clear the air.

He wasn’t seeing this, unlike some others, as an “interrogation”, he was simply trying to get his view across. Had the PM not intervened, the questions on the CWG scam probe, the 2G revenue loss theory, and the JPC would not have been asked, and the news conference wouldn’t have drawn enough news points.

And that would have been a pity, given the reason for the news conference was these very issues raised in the media. I guess the lesson is to leave a portion of such a news conference less rigidly structured so there can be a freer flow of questions and answers.

I got a sense too that what the PM said will spark a debate on several key points. Does coalition politics force a compromise on issues of governance? Do exposes on corruption bring down the level of national confidence?

Or do they increase level of public and political accountability and as the PM himself said, lead to “corrective action”. And how far should the PM personally take the hit when his cabinet colleagues falter? Whatever the answer, the PM took didn’t shy away on Wednesday.

He will need to follow up now with some tough, uncompromising action, whatever the compulsions.

(The writer is editor-in-chief, TIMES NOW)