As a joint committee of ministers and civil society members met Saturday in New Delhi to draft a strong anti-graft Lokpal Bill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called social reformer Anna Hazare an “important leader” whom he respected.
“As far as Anna Hazare-ji is concerned, I respect him as an important leader who has done lots of good work in rural development, and that is why the whole country respects him,” Manmohan Singh told reporters on board the Air India One, on his way home after a five-day, two-nation tour to China and Kazakhstan.
Hazare’s 97-hour hunger strike in New Delhi last week had forced the government to name a joint panel, comprising five ministers and five civil society activists, to frame a Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill. The first meeting of the committee was held Saturday.
On domestic politics, the prime minister said he was not disturbed by the opposition and civil society’s attacks in the wake of alleged corruption scams dogging his government.
“Well, I am not disturbed (by such criticism),” Manmohan Singh told reporters.
The ruling United Progressive Alliance has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent months.
The government was criticised for alleged large-scale bungling in hosting the Commonwealth Games in October 2010 in New Delhi and one of its former inisters is currently in jail for allegedlly selling 2G spectrum waves cheap to select companies causing huge loss to the exchequer.
“I have always believed that when winter comes, can spring be far behind,” the prime minister said, smilingly.
He also indicated that union cabinet reshuffle was unlikely to happen very soon.
“Well, there is still some time to go,” Manmohan Singh said.
The prime minister made some slight changes in his cabinet in January but promised that there would a major reshuffle after the budget session, which got over March 25.