The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM moots debate to tell the good from the bad

Bangkok, July 31: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that while the best should not be allowed to become the enemy of the good in public life, it was imperative that all political parties sit together and evolve a consensus on cleansing politics of criminalisation.

While defending his forming a government that included chargesheeted ministers, he argued for a national debate on the criminalisation of politics. Political parties, he suggested, needed to sit together before describing some crimes as political and others as non-political.

The Prime Minister lamented that he had not been allowed to speak on the subject in Parliament by the Opposition. “I wish I had been allowed an opportunity to speak in Parliament.”

He said political parties needed to sit together and “decide on what constitutes a crime, a criminal activity, etc. …. All those political parties which have the good of the nation at heart should evolve a consensus to prevent the criminalisation of politics.”

The Prime Minister referred to a letter sent by the Chief Election Commissioner to him suggesting that anyone who had been chargesheeted six months prior to an election should be debarred from contesting.

He said: “The CEC has sent me a long paper (on the subject). It is being examined by the law ministry and the home ministry.” He said that once he got their opinions, he would like to hold discussions with all parties.

However, while defending his chargesheeted ministers, the Prime Minister said: “In public life the best often becomes the enemy of the good. That way we would have had to hand over power to the Bharatiya Janata Party. But that was not the mandate of the people of India.”

Singh said the country was in an era of coalition politics. Referring to the United Progressive Alliance, he said: “The mandate of the people of India is for this coalition. It has a very powerful component of Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.”

He said it is often said that the chargesheeted MPs from these two parties should not have been included in his cabinet. But if the best was allowed to be the enemy of the good, he claimed, the power would have had to be handed over to the BJP — suggesting the UPA coalition would not have mustered the requisite strength to form a government.

Lashing out at his critics, Singh said that there had been chargesheeted ministers in the previous government. One could not say that a political protest which leads to hundreds being killed could not be designated a crime but something else could be.

Citing the compulsions and necessity of coalition politics, he said that in the event, “I think what we did was the only course of action (available to us)”.

About his being hurtled from one political crisis to another over the last two months of his tenure, Singh said with a smile: “Crisis management is a part of my job. I am learning on the job and I am learning fast.” His performance seems to indicate that he certainly was doing that.


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