An assertive Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday described the Opposition’s attack on him as “clever propaganda to which some sections of the media had lent ear" for the perception that he was a lame-duck PM and his government corrupt or comatose.
On the perception that crucial decisions of the government were taken by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the Prime Minister said he was not helpless but took full responsibility for “all the bad things this government has done”.
He said he was here to stay, perform and deliver — with the complete backing of the Congress party and Sonia Gandhi — on all promises and programmes of the UPA.
Acknowledging that the 2G telecom and CWG scams, black money and other cases of corruption had caused genuine concern among people, Singh said, “Corruption is a big issue. It has caught the imagination of the people, and we will deal with it.”
"But quite frankly, it is wrong for anyone to assume there is a magic wand which will lead to an instant solution of these difficult societal problems. We need systemic reforms,” he said.
In the context of his government being described as corrupt day in and day out, Singh said, “There have been aberrations. We must punish the wrongdoers but we must not paint all civil servants as babus and contemptuously describe them as a despicable class.”
Asked why he could not prevent scams like the 2G spectrum scandal, Singh said, “If a cabinet colleague tells me that he will scrupulously work by the norms of fairness and transparency, how can I conduct a post-mortem? I am not an expert on telecom matters nor can I spend so much time to look after each and every ministry.”
On the dialogue with civil society, Singh said, “It is out of my respect for members of civil society that — whether it is Anna Hazare or Swami Ramdev — I myself took the trouble to interact with them.”
He said he had assured Hazare and Ramdev that the government would come with the lokpal bill in the monsoon session of Parliament and that it was not a commitment made under duress. “But then it is for Parliament to pass it or amend it and that right cannot be taken away.”
During a 100-minute interaction with five editors at his official residence, a relaxed Singh fielded questions confidently on a wide range of issues.
Speaking warmly about his equation with Sonia Gandhi, Singh said he had received the maximum cooperation from her. “I have never felt that she is an obstacle to things we want to do.”
Stating that the two of them meet one-on-one every week, Singh said Sonia Gandhi had done a superb job as party chief for the past 15 years.
On occasional statements from Congress functionaries that Rahul Gandhi should become PM, Singh said the party and its president had entrusted him with the Prime Minister's job and he had not heard any contrary view from the Congress high command.
"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.”
He said the action taken by Pakistan on dealing with terror was unsatisfactory but India had to keep them engaged. On the possibility of his visiting Pakistan, Singh said they were keen about it but “there must be something solid to achieve.”