‘I have not given up on Trinamool’s support’
A smiling Manmohan Singh, dressed in a smart, round-necked white shirt and trousers, left the on-board media all smiles on Saturday. The Prime Minister didn’t answer any question directly, relying instead on his patented, roundabout answers. But he looked so cheerful that all was forgiven.
The key message after his meetings with G20 leaders at Los Cabos and Rio was ekla chalo re. He said “there are no international solutions to India’s problems.”
Asked who would be the next Finance Minister, Dr. Singh said he was grappling with the issue. Asked if he would take the portfolio, the Prime Minister said he had not decided. “I am churning it in my mind. I have a number of issues to resolve.”
For the moment, though, the PMO is expecting him to take over, at least till September, which could be when the Cabinet reshuffle takes place.
But there was one recurrent theme in his 20-minute interaction — the government needed all good men, women and their parties to come to its aid.
He said he was appealing to the State governments to put their shoulders to the wheel, instead of being obstructive.
“I would urge all political parties to work with the government to restore the momentum of growth.” To a question on the Trinamool Congress, he repeated the statement.
As to whether he had contacted the BJP on supporting Pranab Mukherjee for President, Dr. Singh said he had spoken to all of the BJP’s top leaders on the day when his name was announced to ensure that “Pranabji’s election takes place unanimously.”
He said he had not given up on the Trinamool and that it was part of the UPA and that “it would also find its way to support Mr. Mukherjee.”
Asked about the Vodafone issue, he said, in what could be interpreted by the company as a hopeful sign: “We need both portfolio investment and FDI. If there are any obstacles that come in the way and if there are any policy impediments, we will address those problems effectively and credibly.”
Defends contribution to IMF
Rejecting the Opposition criticism, Dr. Singh said he did not see anything wrong in India’s $ 10 billion contribution to the International Monetary Fund for its bailout fund to assist the debt-wracked Eurozone. He said the contribution would be used only if the need arose and asserted that the amount would continue to be part of the country’s reserves.
The argument put forth by the critics was that India can ill-afford to pledge such a huge amount when the country itself is facing an economic slowdown.
Dr. Singh said that before making the announcement he had a discussion with BRICS leaders and all of them announced similar contributions.
“As a responsible member of the international community it was our bounden duty to make our contribution,” he said.