Manmohan Singh says economic prospects are improving; regrets missed peace accord on Jammu and Kashmir

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday sought to defend himself against corruption scandals that have dogged his second term in office, with the assertion that they related to UPA-1 and the people had given the alliance a fresh mandate in 2009.

“The coal block allocations and the 2G spectrum allegation were both in the era of the UPA-1. We went to the electorate on the basis of our performance in that period; they gave us the mandate to govern for another five years”.

“This is not to say there were no irregularities; there were irregularities”, Dr. Singh admitted. “But the dimensions of the issue have been overstated by the media, by the CAG sometimes, and by other entities.”

He said it made him “sad, since it is well known that I was the one who insisted on transparency in 2G spectrum and auctions of coal blocks”.

“I honestly believe history will be kinder to me than the contemporary media or for that matter the opposition meetings.”

The legacy

Dr. Singh said he saw signs of India’s flagging economy reviving in the New Year. Addressing key elements of his legacy at a press conference here, he said, “I do believe we are set for better times.”

“The cycle of global economic growth is turning for the better. Many of the steps we have taken to address our domestic constraints are coming into play. India’s own growth momentum will revive.”

Dr. Singh said, “During my first term in office, India witnessed, for the first time in its recorded history, a short acceleration of the rate of economic growth to 9 per cent. This exceptional performance was followed by a slowdown initiated by the global financial crisis. Still, the rate of growth recorded is the highest.”

He insisted this growth was “more socially inclusive than it has ever been.”

Foreign policy

The Prime Minister said the single achievement which gave him the most satisfaction in office was securing the India-United States nuclear deal, which ended “nuclear apartheid.”

He also spoke of his hopes that the newly-elected provincial council in Sri Lanka would be able to resolve disputes over fishing rights with Tamil Nadu’s elected leadership. “It is not true that we are not concerned with the rights of ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka,” he said. “We have consistently raised our concerns with the Government of Sri Lanka, and continue to do so.”

Dr. Singh took credit for steering a coalition government, something the Congress was once criticised for lacking the political skills to do. “The general perception was that the Congress could not manage a coalition,” he said, “but we managed to do so not just for one term, but for two terms.”

“I think taking into account the compulsions of a coalition polity, I have done as best as I could be expected to do. I have every reason to believe that when history is written of this period, we will come out unscathed,” Dr. Singh said.

He acknowledged that, in elections to five State Assemblies, “our party did not do well, but we welcome the extent of participation and we will reflect on what the results tell us and learn appropriate lessons.”

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