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Questions in Congress over PM's travel abroad at this juncture

By Sheela Bhatt
June 15, 2012 17:08 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is all set to attend the G-20 meet in Mexico and Rio+20 summit in Brazil but many of his colleagues are questioning his absence from the country at such a crucial time. A senior Congress leader told, "If I was advisor to Dr Singh I would have requested him to cancel his visit."

The Congressman, who handles substantial responsibilities, says, "Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav have made the prime minister's position weak. As you know, even our party took its own time to defend him. This was the worst embarrassment for the PM. Even his defence by the party was the usual stuff. It is difficult to judge how he will carry on his work in the next two years.

"When his position on home ground is weak, when his most senior colleague is expected to leave the Cabinet on being selected for the President's post, and when within the party too his handling of economy is being questioned, why should he go abroad for so long?"

A few diplomats spoke to were of the opinion that while G-20 is very important to attend for India, his trip to Rio+20 could be cancelled.

Next week, more than a hundred heads of state and thousands of representatives from non-governmental organisations and businesses will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Rio+20 conference on sustainable development whose slogan is 'The Future We Want'. In fact, social activists will argue that for countries like India which are not yet developed, more than G-20, the Rio+20 is important because there the world leaders would debate the universal framework to remove poverty, and environmental protection that can help handle economic challenges better.

Dr Singh will leave New Delhi on June 16 and, after spending a night in Frankfurt, will fly to Mexico the next day. Late on June 19 he will fly to Brazil and on the return journey will spend a night in Pretoria before returning home on June 23 -- a week's absence in all.

Former diplomat G Parthasarathy told, "G-20 is very important. Dr Singh's presence surely matters over there because it's the biggest economic forum. In times like this he should go. If he doesn't go to Mexico the world will ask, are things are so bad in India? After S&P's report it will be believed that India is not able to administer itself. Already there is talk about replacing "I" of India with Indonesia in the BRICS grouping."

Parthasarathy adds, "As it is Dr Singh never takes political decisions in the party. Sonia Gandhi will take the decision to select the presidential candidate. So how does it matter if the PM goes abroad?"

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
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