Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi vowed to punish the guilty in the serial scams that hit the ruling coalition and said they would demonstrate through actions and not words their commitment to do so.
Singh promised "corrective" measures, including reducing discretionary powers and the whistleblowers bill, and initiating systemic changes to improve governance and prevent corruption. "We hope to see quick results of these efforts," he said.
Later, he told reporters, "There have been a few aberrations. We are determined to fight them." Trying to dispel the shadows of corruption, inflation, food prices and goof-ups of his government, Singh released and presented the first copy to Gandhi of the UPA's 74-page report to the People by highlighting his government's achievements and listing the pro-people legislations on the anvil.
He harped on the stability and high economic and inclusive growth provided by the UPA and coined the phrase “inclusive globalisation” to talk about India’s growing role in the world. Gandhi used the occasion to take a swipe at the BJP on corruption.
"Transparency, accountability and probity are at the very heart of our governance. It is unfortunate that many Opposition parties, especially the BJP, do not share the same high standards of probity when it comes to their own,” she said, congratulating the PM, the cabinet and UPA allies for the UPA's accomplishments.
On his part, as the DMK's TR Baalu watched, Singh recalled the “conjunction of several developments” relating to the 2G spectrum scam (which saw DMK's A Raja and Kanimozhi being jailed) and the Commonwealth Games (that led to Congressman Suresh Kalmadi's arrest). He said many of these issues surfaced because of “our system of institutional oversight and a free press.”
While Singh spelt out the roadmap for his government as it steps into its third year in office, Gandhi set out the priorities in line with the UPA's core values of inclusive growth and cooperative federalism: to maintain high economic growth while keeping prices of essential items at affordable levels; ensure that the proceeds of growth benefit all, particularly the weaker sections, and backward regions; balance high growth and rising livelihood aspirations; and ensure transparency, accountability and probity in governance.
If UPA-1 gave the RTI, employment guarantee act and forest rights, UPA-2 promised to build further on these by providing legal entitlements. The Right to Education Act that has resulted in high enrollments is already in place. A National Food Security Act, a National Livelihood Mission, Lokpal Bill and the land acquisition and relief and rehabilitation acts are slated to come up in Parliament during the monsoon session.
But challenges remain for the PM, who has completed seven years, but is looking to the future “with hope and confidence”. These include containing food inflation and ensuring energy security.
"This challenge has been made all the more daunting by the rise in world fuel prices. As an importer of oil we have to adopt rational pricing policies. This is not just prudent fiscal management. This is a national security imperative. India cannot become too dependent on external sources of energy,” he added.