Elections on schedule; people should vote UPA back to power: PM

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New Delhi, Nov 17 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ruled out early Lok Sabha polls and hoped that the people will vote his government back to power for the manner in which it has handled the economic crisis resulting from the global slowdown and its performance while in office.

''I think we have done reasonably well and I sincerely hope that the people of India would repose their confidence in us,'' Dr Singh said in reply to a question by the media in this regard.

The Prime Minister addressed the Press on Board his Special Aircraft while returning from Washington after addressing the G-20 Summit there yesterday.

Asked whether the economic and financial crisis will compel the government to postpone or hasten the elections, the Prime Minister said, '' It has no bearing on the elections. Elections willbe held on schedule.'' "The crisis is not of our making. What I would like is for the people of India to judge us by the response of our government to this crisis. We acted in time and while the rest of the world is in doom and gloom, we will still maintain a growth rate of 7.5 per cent. Growth with stability and more socially inclusive growth is a reality and will remain a reality despite the onslaught of adverse turn in our external environment," he said.

As the global crisis is expected to be a prolonged affair, observers feel that its real impact will come on the Indian economy eight months or so down the line. This may compele the government to go in for early elections. The Prime Minister, however, ruled this out averring that the UPA government has handled it well.

Asked as to when will the crisis get over, Dr Singh quipped, "I am not an astrolger." "There are conflicting viewpoints. Our effort must be contain and rollback the crisis. But how long it will take, I am afraid I cannot pronounce with any sense of authority," he said.

Dr Singh was hopeful that despite the adverse external economic environment the Indian economy would still be able to clock a 7.5 per cent growth rate, which has been described as decent given the fact that the global meltdown is the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who was also on the flight, admitted that the Indian economy's slowdown may impact job creation.

When asked to comment that some major Corporates are laying off workers due to the slowdown, Dr Ahluwalia said some months ago they were aggressively making recruitments.

"But the sad part is that whoever is hit is hit," Dr Ahluwalia remarked. The Plan Panel Deputy Chief was asked as to how deep and how long will the global recesssion last, Dr Ahluwalia said it was difficult to indicate this.

However, private players indicate that for the next two quarters the downturn is likely to continue, but in 2009 things will look up and the Indian economy will come into its own.

UNI GS AK PK ND1818

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