The Prime Minister recently chose to address the press for the third or fourth time during his tenure. A lot of expectations were generated and there were even rumours of him stepping down, which of course, were not true. However, the over-all press conference turned out to be a damp-squib. First of all, the Prime Minister made an opening statement for fifteen minutes which was not required at all because all that he did was to read out statistics. It would have been a better strategy if he could have come up with these statistics in answer to the various questions. Secondly, the questions were from known people – from channels, from various newspapers, including the Washington Post. The questions were on prescribed lines, even the media has run out of steam. On corruption charges, the Prime Minister’s standard statement is that he wanted auctions, he wanted transparency which was not done. One can’t understand — if he wanted, who could have overruled him? He was the Prime Minister at that time. It is something very strange and it does not behove an Indian Prime Minister to say, “I wanted it, but it did not happen”. Then you should have sacked the concerned Minister, you should have prosecuted the concerned bureaucrat — this is not the way, you can’t run a Government when your orders are not being obeyed. Merely keeping his Teflon image intact — saying- “I’m the same economist Manmohan Singh who always believed in transparency and fair play” — that doesn’t work once you are in power. The time has come to now implement it, you have to deliver. Throughout the press conference of over one hour, he in no way took responsibility for anything. This will not help the Congress party. Of course he said Rahul Gandhi is a capable person and indicated that he is the Prime Ministerial candidate, though not particularly so. The only heartening part of this whole thing is that he took a clear stand on Narendra Modi. He said, “If by strong PM you mean that you preside over mass massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmedabad, if that is the measure of strength, I do not believe that kind of strength this country needs, least of all in its Prime Minister”. I think it is a good statement, and though belated, it is the correct one. You cannot get to be a strong Prime Ministerial candidate by killing people by using police and the Army– that shows weakness, not strength. Earlier we have said in this column that when he was anointed Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi said we will teach Pakistan a lesson through the Army. He doesn’t study anything, it has nuclear power, war is not an option. Pakistan realises it better with its doddering politics, in India we have got established parties who must understand that we cannot talk like this. Of course we must have a strong Army to defend our border. We have a strong Army, the weakness is political and instead of Narendra Modi seizing the opportunity and saying this is a weak Government and I’ll provide a strong Government and improve relations with Pakistan, he’s also chosen to threaten Pakistan, so there’s a distinct weakness in the personality of Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister has done well to bring it out. However, on corruption, he’s on a weak wicket. He’s also said the press has over-stated the matter and sometimes the CAG has overstated, referring to the figures of the CAG. That doesn’t matter, the crux of the matter is CAG has pointed out that loss has occurred because of wrong procedures which the Prime Minister himself confirms. He says, “ I prefer the auction route and the transparency route.” There is no difference of opinion actually, between the CAG and the Prime Minister. They are both on the same page. Things happened differently — for that there has to be an explanation which the Prime Minister owes to the nation. Diplomatically, he’s avoided the issue. That brings us to the question, what will happen in the next election? It’s a matter of serious concern and we are lucky to have Pranab Mukherjee as the President of India so that if things go wrong at least we have someone who can take an overall mature view of the situation. If political parties behave the way they are behaving, we are in for a bad period which is not good for the country. Even now, all parties should sit down and figure out how to do things. Nothing can be done in a day, Pakistan problems can’t be solved in a day, Kashmir is pending for the last 60 years — it can’t be solved in a day. You have to do a mature thing — you can’t do what you’re doing, you can’t go on threatening, you’re childish — the politicians of today. The Aam Aadmi Party has come to power in a small city-state of Delhi. All right. It is a new message, the person who has become Chief Minister — the way he’s talking — it’s too early for us to know — what are his views? We don’t know his ideology. Is he pro-corporate sector, is he pro-public sector? He’s anti-corruption we know, but that’s not enough — that’s necessary but is not sufficient. Just being anti-corruption can’t solve the country’s problems. What are your views? How are you going to harness the energy of the youth? How are you going to improve law and order which is actually not under him — it’s under the Central Government. So we really don’t know what this entity stands for and unless they can chisel out their views in the next weeks to come — it will become a very confusing situation in the next election. Earlier everybody thinks, applies their minds, the better it is.
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