Arjun Singh a senior leader, we respect him: PM (Lead)

May 10th, 2008 - 10:16 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, May 10 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Saturday said the Congress party respected Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Arjun Singh - a remark aimed at defusing the controversy over the veteran leader’s comment that there was lack of participation in decision-making within the party. “He (Arjun Singh) is a senior leader and we respect him,” Manmohan Singh told reporters on the sidelines of an investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan. He was responding to questions from the media on the minister’s statement.

Arjun Singh, at a book release Friday, said: “Today the evaluation of loyalty (in the Congress) is done in a very narrow sense. The Nehru-Gandhi family knows who are the real loyalists and those who are pretending to be so.”

Manmohan Singh, who was present at the book release function, did not respond to his comments and nor did President Pratibha Patil, who was presented the first copy of the book.

On Saturday morning, at the eighth convocation ceremony of the Jamia Hamdard University, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in the presence of Manmohan Singh and Arjun Singh, made her displeasure over the minister’s remarks evident when she sat away from him for almost an hour, without exchanging a word with him.

“The prime minister has put his personal imprint on secondary education,” said Gandhi, without acknowledging any contribution by Arjun Singh, who heads the education department as HRD minister.

Reacting to the minister’s remarks, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said Saturday: “It is unfair to say no consultations take place in the Congress. At least he (Arjun Singh) should not say that. He is a member of the core group, the Central Election Commission, and the cabinet.”

Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed has already criticised Arjun Singh, saying: “Sonia Gandhi has been very open at every level including the Congress Working Committee of which Arjun Singh is a member.”

Last month, Arjun Singh sparked a controversy when he pitched Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s name for the prime minister’s post. Sonia Gandhi summoned him to her 10, Janpath residence and reportedly pulled him up.

In what was seen as a rebuff to Arjun Singh, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan had said: “Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have always kept away from sycophants”.

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