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PM hits back at Opposition for questioning his authority

By Staff
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New Delhi, Feb 23 (UNI) In a hard hitting response to the Opposition charge that he was in office but not in power, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today virtually described the BJP as a fascist party which allowed ''shadowy organisations'' to interfere in the work of elected governments.

Replying to the Lok Sabha debate on the motion of thanks on the President's Address, Dr Singh said he very much functioned within a ''set of rules and a framework of governance'' under Parliamentary Democracy.

In his 25-minute speech, which was drowned out by slogans raised by opposition members agitated over the reported interference of the government in the functioning of the CBI in a Babri Masjid demolition case against Mr L K Advani, Dr Singh also sought to allay apprehensions, particularly of the Left, on allowing FDI in retail and clarified the UPA's stand on other issues, including the dissolution of the Bihar assembly.

The Prime Minister assured the House that the government would examine the ''larger issue'' of allowing FDI in any form of retail ''in all its dimensions including its effect on livelihoods'' before taking any decision.

''There is no hurry on this'', he said and pointed out that only FDI by single brand chains had so far been allowed which in any case was already present in the form of franchises.

On Bihar, he said the two-three split verdict of the Supreme Court holding as ''unconstitutional'' the dissolution of the assembly, showed that there could be an ''honest difference of opinion'' on the ''complicated issue''.

Dr Singh dismissed with contempt the charge levelled frequently by BJP leader V K Malhotra, that he was an ''invisible Prime Minister'' and UPA Chairperson was the ''super Prime Minister.'' ''Every now and then, a question is raised about Prime Ministerial authority as if we live in some totalitarian system, in some fascist state, where authority has to be visibly asserted to command compliance.

''That may be the culture and outlook of those who keep raising this issue of authority. Sir, India is a proud democracy. Ours is Parliamentary democracy. There is Parliament. There is a Council of Ministers and there are other institutions of democratic governance.

There are political parties.

''The Prime Minister functions within a set of rules and a framework of governance. Maybe those who raise this issue are unaware of this framework. Maybe they think other parties function like theirs, allowing shadowy organisations to interfere in the work of elected governments. That has not been the culture of the Congress party,'' he said.

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