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Why Dr Singh should interact with media more often

Last updated on: July 2, 2011 10:12 IST

Dr Singh's his own best spokersperson

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The simple lesson that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh should learn from his occasional interactions with the media is that he should do this more often. Of course, at a time and place of his choosing, focusing attention on issues he considers important (so that he can guide public thinking and political discourse) and addressing doubts uppermost in the public mind.

Dr Singh is his own best spokesperson and his transparent honesty, sincerity, humility and grasp of information and events always win over his interlocutors, save the ideological opponents. If his media interactions end up calming nerves, reassuring citizens and restoring trust, why does he not do this more often?

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Image: PM Manmohan Singh interacting with senior editors, in New Delhi
Photographs: PIB
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Dr Singh's low-profile style counterproductive

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Clearly, the answer lies in his preference to maintain a low political profile, in deference to the Congress party's first family. This may have been necessary in the first half of his first term, when Dr Singh was still earning his spurs as prime minister and the Opposition was working ceaselessly to dethrone him.

However, it is now crystal clear that this low-profile style has become counterproductive in the second term. All the more so when the government is being asked so many questions and only he seems to carry conviction whenever he responds.

All the destabilising talk about a change of guard, and the transfer of office to Rahul Gandhi, would be seen as nothing more than the usual sycophancy by Congress party loyalists if the prime minister is seen as being more assertive, more in charge and more communicative.



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PM cannot afford to shy away

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Dr Singh has another three years in office, which are both long enough and critical for India. As the prime minister has said in his media interaction, uncertainty continues to grip the world economy; the "animal spirits" of Indian entrepreneurs have been dampened by a combination of circumstances ranging from political uncertainty, paralysis of decision making in the government, a difficult external economic environment, regional instability and so on.

At a time like this, India desperately needs political stability and a safe pair of hands at the helm of affairs. Dr Singh's reassuring leadership can calm nerves and sustain the growth momentum. In times like these, the head of government cannot afford to shy away, encourage talk of a change of leadership, bury his head Ostrich-like and pretend that problems confronting his government will simply disappear.


Image: Dr Singh addressing the media in New Delhi
Photographs: Reuters
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Every time PM interacts with the media his impression gets reinforced

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Dr Singh is right to worry about the debilitating impact of the government's perceived paralysis on the economy. Going beyond worrying about it, he must grapple with the problem and re-energise his government.

Apart from continuing global economic uncertainties, new regional uncertainties are also hurting economic growth. Dr Singh is rightly worried about the consequences of a United States that is unwinding and a China that is winding up.

Managing the regional and global economic and strategic environment is as important for sustaining India's growth as managing domestic sources of political instability. Dr Singh remains the ruling coalition's best bet and every time he interacts with the media, this impression gets reinforced.

The prime minister must derive energy and reassurance from this sentiment and march on, empowering those who can deliver, disempowering those who do not or cannot, and reassuring citizens and investors alike, rather than retreating into silence once again.

Image: Dr Singh shares a light moment with senior editors in New Delhi
Photographs: PIB
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