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Manmohan wins over media

Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi | September 04, 2004 20:57 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday proved at his maiden press conference he was firmly in control of his government and that claims about him being remote-controlled were baseless.

At the first full-fledged press conference by a prime minister in 10 years, Singh dissipated doubts about the fragility of the government, which he asserted would last its five-year term.

"It is without basis to say that I am being pressurized. Mrs Sonia Gandhi is chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance. It is natural that she takes interest in whatever is happening," he said amid laughter.

He handled questions with confidence. He proved he was more than capable in tackling probing questions from the Fourth Estate.

Singh was alone on the flower-bedecked stage, arranged by the usual professional florist. Two Special Protection Group commandos sat behind on either side.

He answered a range of questions, from the intricacies of the country's economic scenario to complexities of international affairs.

He answered the queries with poise and substance, even when a questioner sought to rattle him on his being 'remote-controlled' by Gandhi.

Singh's performance at Vigyan Bhavan perceptibly raised his stature as the media had written and spoken about his 'docile' nature and his alleged propensity to remain in the background.

During Vishwanath Pratap Singh's stint as prime minister of the National Front government, media advisors Ram Mohan Rao and Prem Shankar Jha squabbled in front of reporters about how they enjoyed their boss' confidence.

At a press meeting at Shastri Bhavan's conference hall, Jha had asserted, "I have the mandate of the prime minister." Not to be outdone, Rao promptly replied, "I too have the mandate of the prime minister."

During P V Narasimha Rao's government, principal information officer S Narendra drew the wrath of many reporters at a press conference at Vigyan Bhavan.

Many reporters had complained that Narendra only allowed questions from his favorites in the media.

Manmohan Singh proved on Saturday he was more than generous with reporters who complained they were not allowed questions.

Singh's media advisor Sanjaya Baru expressed inability to allow quite a few reporters to ask questions after the one-hour press conference.

The reporters complained and Singh sportingly indicated he was willing to take more questions, despite a busy schedule.

The prime minister answered questions for 15 more minutes and satisfied many.

Significantly, a host of Congress leaders witnessed the prime minister at his maiden interaction with the media. Among them were All India Congress Committee chairperson Girija Vyas, chief Congress spokesman Anand Sharma and veteran leader Vishwa Bandhu Gupta.

They expressed satisfaction that Singh handled the media with aplomb.

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