Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee tried to dispel the impression that the economic reforms are pro-rich and said the government had been adopting only those economic policies, which were beneficial to poor.
"There is no reason to believe that economic reforms adopted by the government are for big people," Vajpayee said while addressing to a gathering of farmers, organised by the BJP's farmers wing -- the Bharatiya Kisan Morcha.
Emphasising that his government's economic policies are intended to benefit common people, Vajpayee said, "Ham jamin se jude log hai (we are rooted to the ground)."
Though Vajpayee's cursory mention of the economic reforms and its justification was aimed at neutralising his critics on the economic policies, he made it clear that his government's priority would be to ensure balanced growth all over the country.
In his 30-minute address bereft of his usual witty remarks, Vajpayee focussed exclusively on the developmental works undertaken by the government.
"The government is spending Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) for construction roads," he said, adding that the project would spur growth.
Similarly, Vajpayee referred to largescale construction of houses for poor classes as another illustration of the government's concern about the poor.
The function organised to felicitate Vajpayee for his pro-farmers' approach turned out to be an occasion for Union Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi Joshi, Union Labour Minister Sahib Singh Verma and BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu to shower praises on the Prime Minister for his concern for the rural masses.
"I have never differentiated on the basis of regions or states," he said, adding that it was incumbent upon the states to spend the central assistance honestly.
Vajpayee also referred to the meeting he had with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna to resolve the Cauvery water dispute and said that similar disputes arising between Punjab and Haryana and other states should be resolved amicably.
He said that the decision to interlink rivers all over the country would go a long way in resolving such crisis.
Appreciating farmers for enhanced productivity in the agriculture sector, he said the government would ensure that the farmers get their remunerative prices for the produce.
Referring to the recent crisis faced by the sugarcane growers over the glut in the market, Vajpayee announced that the government was considering settting up a central storage for sugar in an attempt to procure sugar from the market.
"This will enable farmers to get remunerative prices," he said, adding that the government would not allow the sugar prices to fall.
While the Prime Minister was appreciative of the performance of the agriculture sector, he expressed his concern over the growing import bill of the edible oil.
"We have to overcome this shortage," he said, adding that credit facility for farmers would be made available easily with expansion of credit card scheme in various parts of the country.