Assertive PM defends government, confronts opposition (News Analysis)

By Sarwar Kashani, IANS
Thursday, February 24, 2011

NEW DELHI - In strongly defending his government in the wake of alleged corruption scams, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday confronted the opposition charges stoutly, arguing in favour of the first-come-first serve policy to issue lucrative telecom licenses.

While Manmohan Singh emphasized that “if there is a scam, it must be dealt with”, he spoke in equally powerful terms of the achievements of his government - particularly making mobile phones accessible to a large population of India.

Manmohan Singh’s three speeches in a day - twice in the Rajya Sabha and one in the Lok Sabha - are perhaps among the most significant of the not-so-articulate prime minister as he usually appears defensive and reads from a prepared speech.

In his Thursday’s extempore speeches - two of them lasting for over 45 minutes each - his message was the government had done nothing wrong as was the impression given by the opposition.

It was Manmohan Singhs assertive tone that attracted rapt attention from the jam-packed houses of parliament and millions of commoners watching live on TV.

His words left all Congress MPs, Sonia Gandhi equally, jubilant as they thumped their desks repeatedly to cheer the prime minister - labelled as weak by none other than Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) L.K. Advani.

In the Rajya Sabha, Manmohan Singh strongly hit back at his bitter critic and Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley for criticising him.

The prime minister said India was a success story under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and was a topic of discussion at world fora.

I urge the leader of opposition to read more. He will then be educated enough not to use the harsh words he used against me by saying I am an eminent economist but made a mess of the country, he said.

In the Lok Sabha too, he said during parliamentary debates, questions can be raised on policy and its implementation, but not on his intentions. If you start questioning intentions, this is not good for the growth of parliamentary system.

On the other hand, he didn’t deny that the scams didn’t occur and said: If there is a scam, it must be dealt with. The law of the land must punish wrong doers but we must not overlook the fact of this tremendous growth of telecom sector which has taken place as a result of sound policies of our government.

Manmohan Singh seemed to connect with his audience - the MPs - well as he began his address with a famous Urdu couplet - Kuch aise bhi manzar hai taareekh ki nazron main; lamhon ne khata kee thi, sadiyon ne sazaa paayee. (History has sometimes witnessed such tragic events where a moment’s mistake had to be borne through centuries of sufferings).

He was trying to make the opposition realise that they had not served any public interest by stalling the parliament proceedings in the last winter session over the demand for a parliamentary probe into the 2G spectrum scam.

That (his speech) was a departure from his defensive posture, a reflection of his confidence the prime minister has gained over the years, said Nishikant Arora, a political science scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

But some said the prime minister - an epitome integrity himself - cannot hide the fact that his ministers, particularly former IT and communication minister A. Raja had committed wrongs.

I feel that he spoke for himself, and showed a sense of self confidence but can he deny that Raja has been in jail, said Shazia Salaam, an English literature PhD scholar in the varsity.

(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at

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