Finally, PM enters No-Silence zone

New Delhi:  It’s almost certain to be the most closely-watched makeover in India.

After criticism from the Opposition and apparently from a section from within his own party, Dr Manmohan Singh will start sharing his opinions on the stands that he and the government hold on issues of national importance. His mode of communication will be through meetings with news editors, the first of which is scheduled for today.

Neither his party nor his office indicated how often these sessions will be held, indicating only that they would be “regular.”In the last few months – a period of bumpy political weather, corruption scandals and unsettling inflation – Dr Singh has been seen as non-communicative.

With the Opposition accusing the government and Dr Manmohan Singh of a “governance deficit,” sources in the Congress say the party wants to convey that its leaders are not on the defensive. At a recent meeting of the Congress Working Committee, many party members reportedly stressed that the PM’s reputation and image as one of the country’s most honest leaders should be better employed.  They suggested that by being more open and more visible, Dr Singh could convey his government’s determination to fighting the corruption that many feel is now ubiquitous among practitioners of power.

Today’s meeting will bring a group of five magazine and newspaper editors together with the PM. Dr Singh has so far held only three nationally-televised press conferences in the last seven years.”The PM of a great country like India has to lead. In order to lead, he has to speak with clarity, conviction and direction. I regret to say Manmohan Singh has been one of the most invisible Prime Ministers of India. The country has been plagued by so many problems and scams. He’s maintained a conspicuous silence. Now he’s decided to speak maybe under compulsion,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad on behalf of the BJP.

The last few months have seen Dr Singh’s government functioning in a continuum of crises. Financial scandals have tumbled out of the offices of some senior ministers. And the high-volume debate over the Lokpal Bill – which has headlined the summer – has left people asking why the Prime Minister isn’t offering his opinion on what sort of Bill the government plans to introduce to check corruption.

Activists led by Gandhian Anna Hazare – who describe the government’s version of the Lokpal Bill as a “betrayal” have said repeatedly that they don’t understand the PM’s silence on a matter of such great importance.In an exclusive interview to NDTV earlier this week, Home Minister P Chidambaram accepted “…Yes, I acknowledge that lots of people would like the Prime Minister to step up to the plate, so as to say, and speak more often. But that is the style of the person.”


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