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PM adviser bats for boss

New Delhi, April 18: Just when a former media adviser has painted him as a Prime Minister who is not master of his domain, Manmohan Singh’s current media adviser has stepped out to bat for his boss.

Pankaj Pachauri, probably the first member of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to meet the media to defend Singh, declined to comment on Sanjaya Baru’s book as he set about challenging the perception of Singh as a “weak PM”.

Pachauri, speaking at the Press Club of India lawns, said it was not a news conference and that the club had invited him to a “meet-the-press”, thus seeking to underline that he was not addressing the media of his own accord.

Asked about Singh’s “silence” — mooted by the journalists as a counter to Congress complaints about under-reporting the government’s achievements — Pachauri said: “The Prime Minister has made more than 1,000 speeches in the last 10 years.”

He said the media were interested mostly in politics, entertainment and sports and none of these were found in the Prime Minister’s speeches.

In the last decade, Pachauri said, Singh had delivered 1,158 speeches and made over 1,600 media releases, 85 to 90 per cent of them dealing with development.

“It’s not that the Prime Minister is not talking, but because of the nature of the media, his speeches have not been registered,” he said.

Pachauri’s move comes at a time the BJP, encouraged by Baru’s book, has stepped up its attacks on Singh while the Congress has failed to vigorously defend the Prime Minister.

Pachauri waved a sheaf of papers, covered in statistics about India’s economic growth, to say: “Had the PM been weak, these figures would not have been achieved. The PM wants his work to speak and this is his work.”

He added: “In the last decade, the kind of economic growth India has achieved has not been achieved by any democratic country in the history of mankind.”

Asked to comment on Baru’s book, termed a “huge betrayal of trust” by the Prime Minister’s daughter, Pachauri said he didn’t feel the need to add anything to what the PMO and the Congress had said.

But he appeared to be handing a veiled snub to Baru when asked whether he too planned to write a book on his days in the PMO.

“I was offered to write a book but I declined,” he said, without explicitly saying that his predecessor too should have done the same.

He said his boss had worked hard, without a break, for the past 10 years and he too had done so since joining the PMO two years ago. So he would enjoy his “chhuti” (holiday) next month when a new government takes over.