No disconnect between party and government: PM (Lead)

September 6th, 2010 - 5:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Sep 6 (IANS) Rejecting reports of a disconnect between the Congress party and his government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday made it clear that he was not thinking of retiring and indicated that he would “look at options” of a Cabinet reshuffle before the winter session of parliament beginning Nov 7.
In an interaction with editors at his residence, Manmohan Singh said that there was nothing wrong in ministers and party functionaries expressing different points of view and stressed that the Congress party was a movement. Differences in opinion naturally surface, as happens in a democracy, Singh said.

Allowing for diversity of opinions, the prime minister said it was necessary for the Cabinet and the government to function with a “certain degree of cohesion”.

However, he stressed that his cabinet had functioned with a “much greater degree of cohesion” than even the first cabinet headed by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Manmohan Singh cited an almost daily exchange of letters between Nehru and his deputy Sardar Patel and differences between Indira Gandhi and her deputy Morarji Desai to underline that differences of opinion “were not a bad thing”.

During Indira Gandhi’s time, a group of “Young Turks” led by Chandrashekhar openly constituted a dissident group, he said when asked about the growing impression that some ministers in the government and key party functionaries were working at cross-purpose.

“Allowing people to express views is not necessarily a sign of drift,” he said.

“I can’t say I will shut up every colleague,” he stressed. Issues are debated and ministers abide by the decisions taken thereafter, he said, adding that during his six years in power his cabinet had met almost every week.

Pitching for a younger cabinet, the prime minister made it clear that he was not thinking of retiring and said he would “like to reduce the average age of my cabinet”.

When he was asked that it appeared to many his government was “marking time” while Rahul Gandhi was “spreading his wings”, the prime minister skirted it, merely smiling as response.

He, however, agreed with Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s view that there are two Indias. The inequality of income and wealth was a fact of life and the gap between the rich and the poor had to be bridged, he said.

The prime minister identified the Maoist problem, the Kashmir situation and the forthcoming judgment in the Babri Masjid case as some of the key issues that would impact on how India would shape in the years ahead.

Alluding to the Maoist problem, he said it was one of the greatest security challenges to which there was no “quick fix”, and advocated a two-pronged approach of addressing economic and social reasons behind the unrest and at the same time enforcing law and order.

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