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'NDA govt gave free play to divisive forces'

May 20, 2004 09:33 IST
Last Updated: May 20, 2004 10:41 IST

Prime Minister-designate Manmohan Singh on Thursday said divisive forces were allowed 'free play' during the outgoing government's tenure.

"I do not want to begin my career by accusing the previous governments but divisive forces were allowed a free play which I believe is extremely injurious to orderly development," he said.

He said violent incidents like the anti-Sikh riots (in Delhi in 1984) and the Gujarat riots should never recur in India. "We are all anguished by such violence," he said when asked about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Indian polity cannot be divided on the basis of race and religion. India is an ancient civilization and the essence of Hinduism is tolerance. "We are the most tolerant civilization and we cannot divide people on the basis of religion and race," he said.

On the Ayodhya issue, he said the law of land should prevail though he did not rule out a negotiated settlement among the contesting parties, if it has the sanction of the courts.

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Asked about the Supreme Court making serious comments on the functioning of the judiciary in Gujarat, Singh said, "This is a serious matter to deal with. We will pay adequate attention to all these issues."

He refused to comment on whether the Centre would use Article 356 to dismiss the Gujarat government. "This is not an occasion to answer such questions. Centre-state relations is a delicate issue. It will be our effort to devise cooperative Centre-state relations. I have not thought through the issue."

He made it clear that his government favours giving a human face to the reforms process with the priority being to ensure the benefits reach the maximum number of Indians.

He regretted the plight of farmers, lack of proper prices for crops, drought in various parts of the country and the lack of relief measures. He spoke of the failure to provide power, roads and water in rural areas. His government would try to address these issues.

He said that public sector companies like ONGC, GAIL and nationalised banks will not be touched. Besides, if they want to compete with private companies, they would be allowed to do so. However, if they cannot compete and are a drag on the nation's resources, then privatisation can be considered but after taking into view the concerns of its employees.

He spoke of the need to end communal divisions and creating an atmosphere to allow our youth and entrepreneurs to thrive because youth need jobs and industry wants to prove that the 21st century will be India's.

There are some parts, for example tribal belts, where there is discontent among the people. The government will try to address their problems, find ways to bring them and all other Indians into the mainstream and not let the benefits of progress to reach only a select few.

In the next few days, the Congress-led coalition will come up with a Common Minimum Programme whose priority will be to fight poverty, whose policies will favour agriculture, employment opportunities for the youth, help small and medium industries, decentralisation and aim to ensure the benefits of progress reaches the maximum number of people.

"We have done well since Independence, in all fields. We will capitalise on that and further the gains because though we have done well, more needs to be done. Our government will try to fulfil the promises made by Congress president Sonia Gandhi," he said in his opening statement.

Earlier, he began the interaction with mediapersons by lauding Gandhi's sacrifice, which enabled him to become the prime minister. He dismissed fears of there being two power centres in the wake of Gandhi refusing the post of prime minister.

"Sonia Gandhi will remain a guiding force for us," Singh said adding, "This is a coalition government. I am sure all allies and supporting partners will strengthen out bonds help provide a stable government for five years."

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