Manmohan moots code of conduct for parties
New Delhi, August 15
Significantly, Dr Manmohan Singh, who became the first Prime Minister from a minority community to unfurl the Tricolour and address the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort, opened a debate on the need for high moral standards among politicians, mooting the idea of a code of conduct for all political parties.
Peppering his Independence Day speech with thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Dr Manmohan Singh outlined the broad contours of the government’s policies, which include: a seven-point economic agenda, a purposive dialogue with Pakistan, commitment to resolving the border dispute with China, a code of conduct for political parties and willingness to initiate negotiations with terrorist groups if they shunned the path of violence.
Clearly avoiding the beaten path of making the Independence Day speech mere polemics of promises, the Prime Minister said he only had “promises to keep”.
The time had come, he said, “to consensually evolve a code of conduct for all political parties, a code of ethics for all individuals in public life, and a code of best practices for the government at all levels”.
“We must be looking within our parties, and ask ourselves what is the root cause of decline in values in public life? How do we reform our public institutions, our political parties, and our government at various levels?” he said. Reform of the government, the Prime Minister said, was a reform of the way the elected representatives and officials worked in the government.
In an obvious reference to the ongoing water wars amongst states, ostensibly precipitated by the Punjab Government’s decision to annul existing water treaties, the Prime Minister said the country “cannot allow these waters to divide us”.
“I urge you and all political leaders to take a national and a holistic view of the challenge of managing our water resources,” he said.
Water is a national resource and “we have to take an integrated view of our country’s water resources, our needs and our policies and water utilisation practices”, and drought and flood were two fundamental problems.
“We need to ensure the equitable use of scarce water resources,” he said, adding that dealing with the problem of water was an important commitment of the “New Deal for Rural India”, as envisioned in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP).
Dr Manmohan Singh identified seven sectors critical for the new model of development. These are: agriculture, water, education, health care, employment, urban renewal and infrastructure.
The Prime Minister made more than a cursory reference to India’s relations with Pakistan and China and said that the UPA government was in favour of a “purposive bilateral dialogue with Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues”.
“It is our intention to carry forward with firm resolve and sincerity the composite dialogue process with Pakistan. The edifice of peace that we wish to build must stand on the twin pillars of mutual trust and confidence. Of course, trends of cross-border terrorism and violence make our task more difficult and complex,” he said.
Regarding China, he said the government was committed to strengthening and expanding these relations. “We shall carry forward the process of discussion to resolve the boundary question with political vision and practical approach,” Dr Manmohan Singh said.
The government would give the highest priority to building closer political, economic and cultural ties with all neighbours.
On the scourge of terrorism, Dr Manmohan Singh equated terrorists and communal forces as similar evils, but said the government was willing to talk to all groups prepared to shun violence.
“We are willing to talk to any group provided they abjure the path of violence,” he said.
Underlining the importance of the spirit of cooperative federalism between the Centre and the states, the Prime Minister identified the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir as two areas which needed special attention for job creation and investment.