Singh quizzed by editors as part of new India media outreach


Staff member
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said his Cabinet colleagues believe bringing his office under the Lokpal Bill would create instability.

Singh spoke during a meeting with five editors for two hours at his home as part of a new media outreach strategy.

"He came across as totally relaxed, confident and jovial as he answered some very exacting questions. All of us were surprised...he was extremely confident even with very embarrassing questions," Kumar Ketkar, one of the editors, said after the meeting.

Singh was advised by the Congress Working Committee, the apex decision-making body of the ruling Congress party, to be more communicative. This resulted in the media outreach strategy in which he will interact with select groups of editors and journalists on a regular basis.

He spoke of the contentious anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, and the standoff between the government and public representatives tasked with drafting legislation to bring the prime minister under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill.

"I have no hesitation in bringing myself under the purview of Lokpal but many of my Cabinet colleagues feel that bringing the institution of Prime Minister under it will create instability," Singh told the editors.

The Prime Minister held the Lokpal Bill as essential and desirable, saying the country did need a strong Lokpal.

He promised to try and find a way on the Lokpal issue and work for a consensus.

The last word

"The government will reach out to the civil society but no group can insist that their views A to Z are the last word," Singh was quoted as saying.

He took the responsibility of engaging anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and yoga guru Baba Ramdev into talks and the police action to evict Ramdev and his followers from Delhi's Ramlila Ground in a midnight swoop, justifying it as unfortunate but a necessary step.

Singh was full of praise for the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, saying he receives maximum possible cooperation from her and dismissed suggestions she was intrusive and an obstacle.

Asked about the impending reshuffle of his council of ministers, the prime minister termed it as a work in progress but refused to divulge when he would undertake the exercise. All he committed to was that the cabinet reshuffle was very much on and that he will bring in some new faces.

Reacting to recent comments made by some of his party colleagues that the time was ripe for the youth icon Rahul Gandhi, party chief Sonia Gandhi's son and seen as an heir apparent of the elite Gandhi-Nehru family, to take over as the new prime minister. Singh said he was in favour of promoting youth in politics.