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PM talks growth; Sonia inclusion
Published on 22 Nov. 2008 12:35 AM IST
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In politically coordinated speeches by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the ruling dispensation Friday sought to send the message that it will go into the election with the mantra of economic growth with social inclusion. The setting was the Durbar Hall of Taj Palace Hotel for the two-day Hindustan Times Leadership Summit where in the inaugural address the prime minister exuded confidence that India would overcome the global economic crisis, while Sonia Gandhi, who spoke therafter, gave an assurance that her Congress party-led government will insulate the vulnerable sections of society from its adverse impact. Collectively, their respective speeches, which was heard by a distinguished audience at the packed conference hall, sounded more like the manifesto of their Congress party, which heads the ruling UPA coalition government, ahead of the national elections scheduled early next year. “The global economy is going through choppy waters. However, we can and will survive this crisis and emerge stronger if we have the imagination and will to work together,” said the economist prime minister. “We can and will sustain an eight percent growth.” Sonia Gandhi spoke more like a political leader, mouthing populist rhetoric before elections. “What concerns us most today is that this economic upheaval could grievously effect the most vulnerable sections of our society. The poor had nothing to do with the habits of the rich.” She said the poor, who had nothing to do with the “hubris of the rich” and spent their lives close to the edge by simply trying to make ends meet after a hard day’s toil, had nothing to do with the “fancy-sounding financial instruments” that were responsible for the current global economic crisis. “Should they then become the victims of the unchecked greed of bankers and businessmen? Should the avarice of a few be allowed to inflict misery on the many?” she queried. Her answer: “It is our duty to ensure whatever action we take in response to the turmoil protects them. The prime minister himself has stressed this, and this remains our firm commitment. Growth, for us, has never been about per capita income figures. It has always been a means to an end.” Similarly, if Manmohan Singh sought to emphasise on humility by recalling how he had come to occupy the high office despite belonging to a family of modest means from a small village, Sonia Gandhi played the socialist card and said while India will not go back to an era of controls, it also cannot allow matters to spin out of control. Likewise, the prime minister said that India had both a stake and a role to play in finding a solution to the crisis; while the UPA chairperson empathised with India Inc for the problems it was facing due of the financial turmoil but asked its captains not to forget the well-being of hundreds of fellow citizens. “As a responsible society, the ends we have to create about most are the acceleration of employment generation, the expansion in education, the provision of adequate healthcare, the supply of clean drinking water and so much more,” Sonia Gandhi said. Manmohan Singh’s comments were similar: “India’s success in transforming the lives of its people as a liberal and plural democracy, a free society and a free economy, will provide hope for millions around the world. We may have paid a price in terms of economic growth and efficiency, but we have gained as a free people.”

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