PM in poll mode, says ‘we have done well’ (Lead)

October 1st, 2008 - 6:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghOn Board PM’s Special Aircraft, Oct 1 (IANS) With elections just a few months away, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday robustly defended his government’s record in blending high growth with social justice and in addressing challenges like inflation, terrorism and insulating India from the global financial crisis.After wrapping up a nuclear deal with France and a landmark deal with the US inching closer to fruition, the 76-year-old Manmohan Singh looked visibly relaxed and happy while returning home from a 10-day trip to the US, UN and France.

Outlining the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s priorities in the next remaining months of its tenure, the prime minister made it clear that his first priority is to see that India is “insulated” to the maximum possible from the “ill effects” of the international financial crisis.

Advocating economic reforms with a “human face”, he singled out terrorism, controlling inflation and vigorous implementation of social welfare programmes as other high priority items on his agenda.

“We have an ambitious agenda ahead of us. But we have done well,” Manmohan Singh said.

“We will put our best foot forward in dealing with terrorism and leftwing insurgency,” he said, while calling for strengthening intelligence gathering and investigative processes.

“We have to worry about inflation while maintaining the momentum of growth process,” he said. “Inflation remains a major worry. One side effect of the international financial crisis will be probable moderation of inflation, but we keep our fingers crossed.”

The economist-turned-prime minister, who opened up the country’s economy in 1991, also dwelt at length about his philosophy about pushing reforms with a human face, saying: “Markets are useful servants but markets also need regulations purposeful regulations.”

With elections on mind, Manmohan Singh underscored his government’s commitment to “aam admi” (common man) and spoke about a more vigorous implementation of various social welfare programmes like the National Rural Employment programme, the Rural Health Mission and the Urban Renewal Mission.

Putting development at the centre of the UPA’s agenda and India’s rising global profile as the chief selling point of the coalition, Manmohan Singh spoke about finding “meaningful solutions” to the problems of mass poverty within the framework of a rapidly expanding economy.

“We have given this country a purposeful government, a government which by and large has the support and respect of all the constituents of our coalition,” he said. He underlined his success in managing the coalition.

The prime minister underlined that he would “like all friendly like-minded segments of the population to work together to resolve all major problems - social, political, economic”.

Typical of his humble, self-effacing style, Manmohan Singh, however, said it “was too early” to talk about the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress for the next election.

“There are several party leaders who are equally or better qualified than him,” he replied, when asked who would be the Congress prime ministerial candidate in the next elections.

“In matters relating to the communal problem, there have been acts of terror, but overall with exception to the recent events in Karnataka and Orissa, there have been no major problems in the last four years of our government.

“So whether you look at domestic, economic or foreign policies, our government has tried faithfully to implement the National Common Minimum Programme,” he said while expressing “considerable satisfaction” at what has been achieved in the last four years.

“People want to know what India is thinking because the world wants to engage India,” he said, alluding to serious efforts made by his government to improve New Delhi’s ties with major countries and neighbours.

“They increasingly recognise that whether it is reform of the Security Council or the international financial system or the enlargement of the G8, there is a growing recognition that India must be actively involved in the reform process,” he said.

“This is, I believe, a big change that has come about in the last four years.”

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