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PM’s remarks: Govt rules out apology
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 11
The Prime Minister’s Office may have rushed to clarify Dr Manmohan Singh’s remarks regarding development plans for Muslims after the furore raised by the BJP but the government has decided to go on the offensive on this issue.

The UPA coalition fielded Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi today to declare unequivocally that it would not be cowed down by the BJP’s belligerent stand and that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would not apologise for his remarks.

Instead, the Minister attempted to turn the tables on the main Opposition party, saying it was unnecessarily disrupting Parliament and polarising society with an eye on the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh.

"The Prime Minister will never, never make any apology within or outside Parliament," Mr Dasmunshi told reporters, adding that the PM’s statement at the Saturday’s NDC meeting was in consonance with the mandate of the UPA government and its common minimum programme.

He said the Opposition would have got an opportunity to hear the Prime Minister if they had allowed the debate on the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, which was slated for the day, as Dr Singh was scheduled to make a reply in this discussion.

Protesting BJP members stalled proceedings in Parliament today and demanded that the Prime Minister apologise and explain his remarks to both houses.

Dr Singh had said minorities, especially Muslims, should have first claim on resources for development. His office had rushed to clarify that the Prime Minister’s remarks referred to all marginalised sections, including Scheduled Castes and Tribes.

In an effort to make amends for what is being perceived as an unnecessarily defensive response, Mr Dasmunshi said the Prime Minister was only reflecting the ground reality which had been borne out by all the state plans showing that the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward classes and minorities did not get an adequate share of the development pie.

The government’s offensive was essentially aimed at reinforcing its “pro-poor” image while putting down the BJP as being insensitive to the needs of the marginalised sections. The ruling combine was also encouraged by BJP’s isolation within the NDA as its stand on PM’s remarks did not draw any support from its allies, the Janata Dal (U) and the Biju Janata Dal..

Mr Dasmunshi also sought to put the blame for this confusion on a minor change made in the text of his speech put on the website as against the one he delivered.

In his speech, Dr. Singh had said: "I believe our collective priorities are clear - agriculture, irrigation and water resources, health, education, critical investment in rural infrastructure and essential public investment needs of general infrastructure along with programmes for the upliftment of SC/STs, OBCs, minorities and women and children."

"The component plans for SC/STs will need to be revitalised. We will have to devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development. These must have first claim on resources," he added.

Mr Dasmunshi maintained the word “these” in the last sentence had been replaced by “they” which had resulted in this unnecessary misinterpretation.



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