On Board Air India One, Oct 1: Prime Miinister Manmohan Singh said Tuesday he would not quit over the perceived undermining of his authority and that of his cabinet by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, noting that differences of viewpoints was “what a democracy is about”.
But he said that the “onslaught” of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi needed to be met by “all secular forces” and one will have to wait for sometime “before the people realise what they are up against”.
Ending speculation on whether he will resign after the public trashing by Gandhi of an ordinance that sought to shield convicted lawmakers from disqualification, the prime minister said he will try to “find out the reasons” why he had protested in “that way.
“Well I am not the master of what people say. It has happened and as I said when I go back I will try to find out the reasons why it had to be done that way and how do we handle it,” the prime minister said when asked whether Gandhi should have raised the issue of the ordinance when he was away.
On being asked whether he was upset by the public denunciation of the ordinance passed by the cabinet, he said: “I think, I have been used to ups and downs and I don’t get easily upset.”
The prime minister was speaking to reporters on board his special aircraft while returning from New York after attending the UN General Assembly session and meeting US President Barack Obama.
The prime minister also said that he will discuss the matter with Gandhi.
Gandhi at a press conference had rubbished the ordinance, saying that it was “complete nonsense” and should be “torn up and thrown away.”
The remark had created a political storm, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saying that the prime minister should step down if he has any self-respect left.
The prime minister said the ordinance was discussed twice by the cabinet and also by the Congress core group, the top decision-making body.
The ordinance was seen to be a way of saving Congress leader Rasheed Masood and strong ally Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad ahead of their final court hearing in cases of corruption. Both have been convicted.
President Pranab Mukherjee had withheld his assent to the ordinance after the cabinet passed it Sep 24, a day before Manmohan Singh left for his five-day US visit. Mukherjee had summoned some union ministers over it.
On being asked whether the government was planning to junk the controversial ordinance and whether he was considering resigning because his position has been undermined, the prime minister said: “There was no question of resigning.
“Well, I think, I have seen Rahul Gandhi’s statement. He has written to me on this subject also and let me say that when issues are raised in a democracy, in a democratic polity, right course is to start with and trying to understand what is it agitating the mind of the concerned people,” he added.
He said Gandhi has asked for a meeting and he will discuss the matter with him.
“..I will also take my cabinet colleagues also into confidence. We will see which way the wind blows,” he said on whether the ordinance will be withdrawn by the cabinet. The cabinet is meeting Wednesday to discuss the ordinance.
On being asked whether any person, however, senior should undermine the decisions taken by the cabinet and core group, he said: “No, I don’t feel that way” as they were operating in a democracy and not in an authoritarian state.
“I honestly feel that if there is an important point of view, any member of the Congress Party, any member of my cabinet is free to raise issues and require reconsideration of issues.
“I think that’s what a democracy is about. I don’t think we are an authoritarian structure in which one person lays down the line all the way and therefore my humble feeling is that when a point of view has been expressed, we must sit together and understand what is agitating the mind of the person who has raised these issue and that’s what we will do,” Manmohan Singh added.