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'Communal violence a worst thing in my tenure as PM'

By Staff

{image-Manmohan Singh_01102008.jpg news.oneindia.in}Onboard Air India One, Oct 1: Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh returned on Wednesday, Oct 1 morning after completing a hectic and significant ten-day visit to the United States and France, during which he managed to see through the US Congress, the passage of the US-India civil nuclear cooperation deal and the signing of a historic civil nuclear cooperation pact with France.

Addressing a press conference onboard his special aircraft before its arrival in India, Dr. Singh gave his views on a number of topics, including the global financial crisis and its impact on India, the controversy over land acquisition for a motor plant in Singur, West Bengal, the future of Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and the anti-Christian disturbances in Orissa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Launching a veiled attack on the opposition, Singh described the communal tensions in Orissa and Karnataka as the worst of his four-and-a-half-year-long tenure as Prime Minister.

"In matters related to communal violence, there have been acts of terror but overall with the exception of recent events in Karnataka and the Orissa, there have been no major communal problems in the last four years," he said. On the global financial crisis, he said: "We have no ideological position; we have been very cautious reformers and are pursuing reforms with a human face."

When asked about the possible removal of Shivraj Patil because of the recent terrorist attacks and communal violence, Dr Singh said: "Don't expect me to discuss the issue of the cabinet in the press conference. We are dealing with a very difficult situation. It is not the question of one individual, in our system, we have problems. We have to change our various mechanisms to tackle terrorism."

Replying to another question, he said that to remove or keep a cabinet minister is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, I have to take into account the totality of interests and totality of concerns whatever will be done will be done in the interest of the country." On the issue of pay hikes for the armed forces, he said: "There are certain concerns which the armed forces have brought to the attention of government, I have appointed a committee consisting of Shri P Chidambaram, Defence Minister to look into it."

When a scribe asked about the political and apolitical sides of Manmohan Singh, a blushing Dr. Singh said: "When I was finance minister, I was the member of the team, now I am the captain of the team. There is a coalition government, and therefore, there are compulsions. Managing the coalition, there are often constraints. The charge against the Congress party is that it cannot manage a coalition government. We have succeeded and given this country a purposeful government. By and large, we have the support of all the coalition partners. I felt very sad when our Left colleagues parted company.

I have still not given up the hope and conviction on the nuclear deal that it protects our strategic interests,opens new options for India energy needs. Whether it is the BJP or the Left, I want to tell you, there is nothing in this nuclear deal against the country's interest." He also said that it is too early to talk in terms of a potential prime minister. He said: "The Congress party has several leaders who are equally qualified or better qualified than I am. I am not applying my mind to this." On the impasse in Singur, Dr Singh squarely blamed the West Bengal Government for mishandling the issue.

"Well, I don't want to aportion blame, but I sincerely believe that even now, it is not to late to find a negotiated settlement which would meet the concerns of the farmers who are agitating as well as the concerns of TATA It is my hope that it is in the interest of West Bengal and India that this issue is resolved satisfactorily," he said. Speaking on the global financial crisis, he said: "Our markets are not immune, but less vulnerable to the extent some other countries are. But if the capital flows, if FII because of weak liquidity will take money out that will affect our stock markets.

That will affect the ability of Indian corporates to raise resources for investment, there is a recession in developed world which could hurt us." Outlining his three top most priorities, Singh said: Our priority is that India is insulated to the maximum extent possible from the ill effects of the global economic crisis, second is to put our best foot forward in dealing with the terror, left wing insurgency, this is a major issue that we have to tackle, and thirdly, we have to ensure that the NREG program, the rural health program and the social security program are implemented properly. On illegal migration, he said: "We are opposed to any illegal migration. We should not make it a political issue."


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