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PM denies rift with Sonia Gandhi, slams Opposition

Rejecting reports of a rift between him and the Congress president, the Prime Minister on Friday asserted that they worked together on almost all issues and he had consulted the party chief where it was needed.

Published: 31st May 2013 12:37 PM  |   Last Updated: 31st May 2013 04:01 PM   |  A+A-

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Rejecting reports of a rift between him and Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asserted that there was no truth in it as the two worked together almost on all issues.

"In all truthfulness, there is no difference of opinion between me and the Congress president," he told reporters on his way back from the five-day visit to Japan and Thailand.

"We work together on almost every issue and where consultations are needed, I consult the Congress president," he said.

He was responding to a question about perception of a trust deficit and divergences between him and Gandhi.

"This perception that on certain issues there were differences of opinion, there is no truth in that," he said.

He was also asked whether Gandhi had nudged him against his wishes to get the resignation of Ashwani Kumar as Law Minister and whether he faced a tough situation when CBI Director Ranjit Sinha named a joint secretary in the PMO as having made changes in the agency's affidavit to the Supreme Court on Coalgate but the Prime Minister did not spell out his response to this.

'Cabinet reshuffle being considered'

The Prime Minister indicated that a Cabinet reshuffle could be on the cards to fill up the vacancies.

"There are some vacancies. The issue of filling them up is being considered," Singh told reporters.

The Prime Minister was asked whether he was contemplating a Cabinet reshuffle in view of vacancies created by the resignations of P K Bansal and Ashwani Kumar.

Bansal quit as Railways Minister earlier this month in the wake of bribery scandal involving his nephew and a Railway Board member. Kumar also resigned as Law Minister following controversy over vetting of a CBI probe report on coal block allocation scam.

The portfolio of Railways has been given to Road and Highways Minister C P Joshi as an additional charge while that of Law has gone to Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal as additional ministry.

Besides, there are a number of other ministers holding more than one portfolios.

The Prime Minister also slammed Opposition for its "obstructionist" role in Parliament, saying it has become more impatient than ever before.

He made a fresh appeal to the political parties to help the government clear important legislations in Parliament and stop its "obstructionist role".

"It is unfortunate that opposition has become more impatient than ever before. They never expected that we would win the election for UPA-l and were doubly disappointed when we won the election for UPA ll.

"Therefore, the obstructionist role of the opposition has increased enormously in recent years which is my great regret that some very essential business of the House has not been transacted because of these animosities of the opposition against the government," he said when asked about the three biggest regrets he has had over the past nine years in office.

Government, he said, will make all possible efforts to ensure that the essential business is conducted smoothly.

"I appeal once against to all the political parties to help the government in this process," he said.

Asked whether government was planning to reach out to the Left or Mamata Banerjee's TMC for UPA-III, Singh said, "Well, in politics, there are no permanent allies and no permanent enemies. These possibilities, some people coming in, some people going out, they have to be accepted as they are".

The Left had deserted the government in UPA-I and Banerjee had snapped ties with the government in UPA-II.

Singh kept up the suspense when asked whether he aspires for a third term in office if the UPA comes to power after the Lok Sabha elections slated next year.

"When I filed my nomination papers, I had clearly stated that it has been my great privilege to represent Assam in the Rajya Sabha since 1991 and people of Assam have given me yet another opportunity to serve them," he said.

He went on say that he was very grateful to the people of Assam. "I have tried in my own way to serve the people of Assam to the best of my ability. I will do so with renewed dedication and commitment," he said.

Last month, Singh had triggered speculation by remarking "I am not ruling it in, I am not ruling it out" when asked about him being a Prime Minister for a third term.

'India, Pakistan want to resolve outstanding issues peacefully'

Manmohan Singh said that both he and prospective Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif want to take bilateral relations forward and resolve outstanding issues peacefully.

Singh told reporters that both leaders had invited each other to visit their countries but dates for this have not been fixed as yet.

"I rang up Prime Minister Sharif on the very first day the election results were coming out. I conveyed my congratulations to him and I reciprocated his sentiments that India-Pakistan relations should move forward.

"I also invited him to visit India. He also invited me to visit Pakistan. There is an invitation from the Government of Pakistan for me to visit Pakistan. There is no firm decision on either side. No dates have been fixed but we would certainly like to have good neighbourly relations with Pakistan.

"It has been consistently our policy that in India- Pakistan relations, we should deal with all outstanding issues. We are committed to resolving them in a peaceful manner. That is also the sentiments that was reciprocated by Nawaz Sharif," he said.

'India hopeful of inking civil nuclear deal with Japan'

The Prime Minister expressed confidence that India will soon conclude a civil nuclear deal with Japan that will allow Tokyo to export nuclear reactors to the country.

"There have been discussions with Japan and this visit marked a formal move in that direction. I am hopeful that before long we will be able to put our signatures to a civil nuclear energy agreement with Japan as well," Singh told reporters on his way back from Japan and Thailand.

A joint statement issued at the end of exhaustive talks between Singh and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe this week had said the two leaders reaffirmed the importance of civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries, while recognising that nuclear safety is a priority for both governments.

"In this context, they directed their officials to accelerate the negotiations of an Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy towards an early conclusion," the statement had said.

Negotiations for the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement have not made much headway since Japan was struck by Fukushima nuclear disaster in March, 2011.

Answering questions on progress made so far in India's Look East policy, Singh said, "I am hopeful that Look East policy of India is paying rich dividends and the results are going to improve as we move forward".

"The Look East policy of the Government of India is not a new development. When Mr Narsimha Rao was our Prime Minister, and I was the Finance Minister, we charted out a course of action to get closer to South East Asian countries particularly ASEAN," the Prime Minister said.

During Singh's visit, India and Japan signed the Exchange of Notes for yen loan totalling USD 424 billion. This includes USD 71 billion for the Mumbai Metro Line-III project as well as the yen loan of the fiscal year 2012 for USD 353.106 billion for eight projects.

"ASEAN countries are our strategic partners and there are enormous opportunities of expanding trade ties, investment relations, expanding maritime cooperation, expanding the scope of trade and investment, and now we have reached a stage where large scale flow of trade and investment is becoming a reality," he said.

"We have, for example, the dedicated freight corridor where Japan is helping us; we have Mumbai-Delhi industrial corridor where also the Japanese help will be made available and also the Mumbai-Bangalore corridor where also these is agreed interest of east Asian countries including Japan, Thailand and Malaysia," Singh said.

The Prime Minister also hoped that India's Look East policy will benefit the north-east.

"I sincerely hope that the north-eastern states of India will benefit enormously from our Look-East policies. If we improve the connectivity between India, Myanmar and Thailand, I think, you can imagine, that this would also benefit the north-eastern states of our country," Singh said.

"With regard to the subsidy matter, I do recognise that because of the special problems, the difficulties of connectivity between the rest of India and the north-eastern states, there is need for some items being subsidised. But I do hope, that sooner or later, industry in the north-eastern states will also learn to stand on its own feet," Singh said, when asked about the government's subsidy not being used by industrialists for the development of the north-east.



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