The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blow of invisible hand to Advani

New Delhi, March 10: Lal Krishna Advani called him 'invisible'. When Manmohan Singh made himself very much visible, the vision would not have been very pleasant for Sardar Patel II, as Advani likes to see himself.

Naxalite violence spread 'despite the fact that the great Sardar Patel II had presided over the home ministry', the Prime Minister told the Rajya Sabha today.

The Opposition was stunned, possibly so was Singh's own party MPs, used as they are to a man of mild manners.

Breaking through the white-and-blue exterior a body became visible that can bite ' for the first time in public.

Advani had, of course, struck at the soft underbelly of this government that is often asked the question: Who's running the show'

Referring to reports which likened Singh to the missing tigers in sanctuaries, he had said: 'I respect the Prime Minister but the Prime Minister becoming invisible is not good.'

Singh is an honourable man ' known for his credibility, integrity and honesty ' but it did not behove the top executive of the nation to say he was not aware of certain developments or needed to collect information.

Apparently, Advani was alluding to his talks with the Prime Minister over the political crisis in Goa and Jharkhand.

'The Leader of the Opposition has said that I am becoming an invisible Prime Minister. I do not agree with that,' Singh said in the Lok Sabha.

He asserted that a government should be judged by its performance and not by the visibility or invisibility of the Prime Minister.

Singh said he was visible when Andhra was reeling under drought, floods hit Bihar and Assam and the tsunami struck Tamil Nadu and the Andamans. 'Wherever there was a problem, I, along with Sonia Gandhi,went there.'

But it was in the Rajya Sabha that the Prime Minister bared his fangs when he responded to criticism of the government's alleged 'soft' approach to the Naxalite problem.

When the Vajpayee government assumed charge, the home ministry headed by Advani had said that Naxalites were active in over 130 districts. By the time that government demitted office last year, their activities had spread to 40 more districts.

Singh, however, avoided replying to Advani's charge that the developments in Bihar, Jharkhand and Goa were indications of the Congress's Emergency-like mindset.

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