Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent a strong political message that the government is undeterred by the recent poll reverses of the Congress even as it works resolutely to contain inflation and tackle problems of unemployment and poverty while pursuing "inclusive" growth process.
Wrapping up the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President's address in Lok Sabha, he said "the government is determined to curb inflation without adversely affecting the strong growth."
Singh said, "If inflation becomes a problem and brings agony and hardship to people, it has to be dealt with on priority basis. This is precisely what is being done."
Singh, who spoke against the backdrop of the Congress losing polls in Punjab and Uttarakhand which has been attributed to inflation, traced the problem of price rise to the mismatch between demand and supply of essential items and explained why even import was not an immediate answer because of rising fuel and food prices even abroad.
The problem of inflation will be effectively addressed without affecting the growth process, Singh said, adding that it was necessary to increase production of food grains, vegetable oil and other essential commodities.
Referring to problems in the field of agriculture, Singh said the pace of progress in this sector was "not adequate" and "falls short of what we need". The growth of agriculture and productivity needs to be ensured by expanding areas under irrigation.
The PM rubbished Leader of Opposition LK Advani's contention that the government had failed on the security front, saying "the UPA's record is better than that of the previous government."
He made it clear that there would not be any compromise with unity and integrity of the country and terrorist designs would be dealt with firmness "without waxing eloquent with words."
Taking a dig at Advani, he said "the Home Ministry has a better track record. Whether it is the North-East, Jammu and Kashmir or naxalite-affected areas, the overall internal situation is far more better than the previous NDA regime."
The PM compared the incidents of violence after Godhra train fire and the situation in Maharashtra after the Mumbai blasts, saying that there had been no breakdown of law and order.
Sending a tough signal in the run-up to UP assembly polls where sectarian issues are expected to figure prominently, the PM said "communalism" and "sectarianism" would be fought in all its forms and manifestations. He said reports indicated a rise of such forces, which would be firmly dealt with.
He said, "We will not allow anyone to weaken our democratic tradition. We are committed to Constitutional values. We will fight communalism and sectarianism in all its forms and manifestations."
He also affirmed the government's commitment to implement the Sachar panel's recommendations for the welfare of Muslims and other minorities because of "current disparities."
A targeted programme for districts having minority concentration is being launched for their welfare, Singh said. He also alluded to the situation in BJP-ruled Gujarat where theatres were refusing to screen 'Perzania', a film based on violence in Godhra aftermath. "There is no space for such intolerance."
Singh said the government meant business when it came to tackle problems of unemployment and poverty while pursuing "inclusive" growth process.
Referring to the controversy over farmland acquisition for SEZs, Singh said the issue had to be dealt with in a more "humane" manner. "There has to be a more humane rehabilitation and resettlement policy" for those whose land has been taken away."
He said External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was heading a GoM (Group of Ministers) to review the approach to SEZs. "If we have made any mistake... we will make necessary corrections."
Countering Advani on the foreigners' issue in Assam, Singh said the government's intention was not to protect illegal immigrants but to protect genuine citizens in Assam by bringing the IMDT Act. On inter-state disputes over water, Singh appealed to all political parties to treat water as a "national resource". He said the issue should not divide people.
The Motion was later approved by a voice vote.