‘I wasn’t the PM afraid to talk to Press’: Manmohan Singh

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Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said the country needs a “strong and independent” central bank which has to work in “close cooperation” with the central government.

“I do hope and pray that government and the RBI find a way to work in harmony,” said the former Prime Minister, who had also served as the RBI governor from 1982 to 1985. He had earlier termed RBI governor Urjit Patel’s resignation “very unfortunate” and a “severe blow” to the country’s economy.

Patel, who had a run in with the government over autonomy of the central bank, resigned from his job on December 10, citing personal reasons. His resignation came four days ahead of a crucial meeting of the board of the central bank that could have discussed issues of simmering differences with the government.

Manmohan Singh who was ridiculed for his silence by his political opponents also hit back by asserting that during his 10-year tenure in office, he was “not afraid” of talking to the press.

Speaking at the launch of his book Changing India, a compilation of his speeches and papers in six volumes, he said, “People say I was a silent Prime Minister. I think these (six) volumes (of his book) speak for themselves. I wasn’t the PM who was afraid of talking to the press. I met press regularly and on every foreign trip I undertook, I had a press conference on board or immediately on return.”

His statement was an obvious dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is yet to host a press conference since taking charge.

“I have been termed as an accident prime minister of the country, but I think that I was also an accidental finance minister,” Dr Singh said after the launch.

This is not the first time that the former PM has taken a jibe at PM Modi. In November at a book launch of Congress leader Manish Tewari, he said, “My advice to the prime minister is that he should exercise due restraint becoming of the office of the Prime Minister.”

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had, earlier this month, criticised PM Modi for never addressing a press conference in his tenure, and suggested he should try addressing reporters as it is fun to be asked questions.

Singh’s criticism of the current government also extended to the tiff that the BJP-led NDA government has had with the last RBI chairperson Urjit Patel over issues of autonomy of the central bank and the revision of the GDP back-series announced by the federal think tank NITi Aayog, which lowered the growth rate during the time Dr Singh was PM.

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