Indo-Asian News Service, New Delhi, May 22, 2006
Promising to "redeem our pledges to our people", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday urged the spectrum of society and politics to "set aside differences to build a strong and vibrant India".
"Running a government is not difficult. Building a nation is," Manmohan Singh, speaking in a manner that left no doubt as to who was in command, declared at a function to observe the second anniversary of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government coming to power.
UPA chair and Congress president Sonia Gandhi earlier released the government's "Report to the People" on its achievements in the last two years.
Maintaining "we have to build a more strong India", Manmohan Singh added: "We have to offer a more transparent and honest government. We have to reform the judiciary and the legislature to make them more result-oriented, more people-oriented."
In this context, he pointed to the government's five major initiatives in the past year: the National Rural Health Mission, the National Employment Guarantee Act, the National Urban Renewal Mission, empowerment of women and the Right to Information Act saying they were indicative of the government's seriousness to take the nation forward.
The Employment Guarantee Act, according to the prime minister, had "shown the world" the manner in which poverty should be tackled.
"There is no ambiguity on our commitment to ensure that every citizen lives with dignity and self-respect," the prime minister asserted.
"(Two years ago), the people voted out the politics of divisiveness and gave us a mandate for the politics of inclusiveness. The government is devoted to the empowerment of the people, to build a more capable nation," he added.
On internal security, the prime minister said this had "effectively" improved, even as the security forces were dealing with the issue with "greater sensitivity".
"We have a better understanding of the Naxalite (Maoist) problem and have adopted a two-pronged strategy to deal with this," he added.
"At the same, terrorism continues to pose a threat and we have to face this with courage and conviction," the prime minister maintained.
On the economic front, the prime minister pointed out that despite international crude prices hitting new highs, the government had thus far prevented this from impacting on inflation.
"However, we cannot afford to subside energy consumption on this scale," he warned, an indication that prices of fuels and cooking gas could soon rise.
Turning to foreign policy, the prime minister said India had "significantly improved" its relations with its neighbours and with major world powers.
"The regional environment has significantly improved for our economic development," he maintained.
The prime minister later hosted a dinner attended among others by his cabinet colleagues and UPA allies, as also Sonia Gandhi. Her son Rahul Gandhi made a brief appearance at the banquet.
The Left parties that boycotted the "Report to the People" release, however, attended the dinner on the sprawling and lush green lawns of the prime minister's 7 Race Course Road official residence.
The Left was represented, among others, by Prakash Karat, Brinda Karat and Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and AB Bardhan and D Raja of the Communist Party of India (CPI).
Conspicuous by his absence was former external affairs minister K Natwar Singh, who resigned last November in the wake of Iraq's oil-for-food scam.
The cuisine included food from virtually all the states.