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Manmohan Singh moves into quick policy decision mode

Sunday July 31, 2011 03:42:03 PM, George Joseph, IAN

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, working virtually round the clock with the minimum of sleep, has followed up the reshuffle of his cabinet with crucial policy decisions in the past few days to revamp the image of the 26-month-old United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II government that has been battered by a series of corruption scandals, his close aides and Congress leaders say.

"Dr. Singh is very active... after the cabinet reshuffle (July 12), he has taken several important decisions refuting all criticism of the so-called policy paralysis," a close aide of Manmohan Singh told IANS.

He said Manmohan Singh, 78, is all prepared - mentally and psychologically - to face the crucial monsoon session of the parliament beginning Monday.

The approval of the draft Lokpal bill, the release of the draft land acquisition bill, preliminary approval for foreign direct investment in retail are important decisions taken recently, another official said.

In a major gesture to the opposition, the government appointed Bihar Finance Minister Sushil Modi (who belongs to the BJP) as the chairman of the empowered committee of state finance minister's, a Congress leader pointed out.

According to the prime minister's aide, the quick acceptance of the resignation of Gurudas Kamat as the minister of state for drinking water and solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam were examples of Manmohan Singh's "recent decisiveness".

"Criticism does not deter Manmohan Singh. For him it is work and more work that answers all criticism," said another senior official, pointing out he cannot recall Manmohan Singh taking a break or going on a holiday in recent years.

"I have been working 24 hours a day. I spend 18 hours a day on work - without any holidays," Manmohan Singh said during an interaction with a group editors here June 29.

Congress leader Mohan Prakash said the impression that the UPA and the government are weakening was incorrect. The recent assembly polls had proven this, he added.

Prakash told IANS: "There are several prophets of doom, who say the government is weak and the leadership is divided. Soniaji (Congress president Sonia Gandhi) has clearly backed the prime minister on several occasions recently."

"Speculation, rumour mongering and day dreaming of a Congress collapse have been the style and strategy of some of the opposition parties," Prakash added.

Kochi-based political analyst K. Sreekumar feels the critical crisis of the government is over. "Still there is some goodwill left for the government."

Sreekumar feels the bills on land acquisition and food security can save the UPA government.

"While Sonia Gandhi could drive UPA-I though the rural job guarantee scheme (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme), the Rahul Gandhi-championed land bill will give confidence to the rural people who make up 70 percent of the population," he added.

And Manmohan Singh has been there to lead both the governments, he pointed out.

But the opposition says nothing can save the scam-tainted government.

"Manmohan Singh will be remembered as one who became prime minister by default. And he will go down in history for his faults - for the several commissions (of scams) and many more omissions," Javed Raza, general secretary of the Janata Dal-United, told IANS.

"The middle class, the intelligentsia and the youth, who were the staunchest admirers of Manmohan Singh, have turned against him and his willful silence to the scams," Raza added.

(George Joseph can be contacted on













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