Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday gave fellow Congressmen much to chew on by suggesting that Rahul Gandhi would be an ideal choice for the Prime Minister’s post after the 2014 elections.
Responding to media queries on board the special PM’s aircraft on his way back from the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Dr. Singh added, for good measure: “I would be happy to work for the Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhiji.”
The statement by Dr. Singh was clearly well-thought-through and not off the cuff. It is interesting that it comes against the backdrop of mild speculation recently in some quarters suggesting he may have to be projected as PM for a third term if Mr. Gandhi does not decisively agree to step in. Also, on a few occasions in the recent past, Dr. Singh has indicated that he would want Mr. Gandhi to join the government. Mr. Gandhi, on his part, has steadfastly signalled he was happy to spend his time and energies on reshaping the Congress party. Dr. Singh’s statement at this juncture, especially when the Prime Ministerial candidature is becoming ever more contentions in the opposition quarters, is significant.
A seemingly assertive Prime Minister also fielded other political questions currently dogging the UPA government. When asked whether he had sufficiently allayed the oppositions doubts and suspicions in regard to various scams that have besieged the UPA, the Prime Minister shot back, “I have tried to answer all questions that have been raised and I have no desire to hide anything from Parliament, whether it is the coal matter or other matters.”
‘I have no desire to hide anything from Parliament’
The PM said he had made a long statement on the coal issue in the last session of Parliament but the Opposition did not allow him to read the statement. “But I did issue the statement. It is a public document. I am an open book.”
Dr. Singh suggested he was open to any sort of inquiry, especially in the context of the recent reports that certain government agencies may want to examine the Prime Minister in the context of coal allocation controversy. The government has been facing the heat in recent weeks on account of the missing coal allocation files. The Prime Minister had said in Parliament that “he was not a custodian of the coal files”, even as the government has assured that all the files will be recovered.
“I have not prevented anybody from looking at my conduct”, he told the media which accompanied him to the G-20 summit.
Overall, Dr. Singh derived immense satisfaction from his G-20 meeting with other heads of State and said “there was wide appreciation of the point that I made about the unintended consequences of unorthodox monetary policies being pursued by countries like the United States and Eurozone.
“There was a general appreciation that in the mutual development process the countries should be discussing how monetary policies are being shaped, what are the concerns and how can we soften the impact on other countries.” The Prime Minister suggested most developing countries were on the same page when it came to coordination of critical macro-economic policies.
Arrangement with Japan will help He added that the $50-billion-dollar swap arrangement with Japan worked out at the G-20 bilateral with the Japanese finance minister would, at the margin, help calm the currency markets and the volatility in the capital flows that India is currently experiencing. This, along with the BRICS Currency Reserve Fund, will help but “we have to the get the fundamentals of our economy back in robust health,” the PM added.
Dr. Singh further emphasised that his upcoming visits to the United States, and later to Russia, China and ASEAN were also very important as they were all major trading partners of India’s.
He said he hoped his discussions at the U.S. and other countries would help create “a better environment of cooperation between us and these countries in matters relating to trade and investment.
Further Dr. Singh suggested that if India did some of the right things before the visit, the U.S. would have an influence on the climate of capital flows.