Will he use the opportunity to set the record straight or allow it to pass off as another event in the record book?
As Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is all set to address tomorrow his third full fledged press conference in about five years, speculation is rife about the content of possibly his last public piece as PM.
The man, who many argue assumed unprecedented reticence in the high office, has indeed been shy of courting media on his own. For the record he has stuck to being the behind-the-scene man.
Statistically speaking, Prime Minister Office (PMO), has so far released 1721 statements (since May 22, 2004), which means only a statement in two days. Since he took over in 2004, he has given 12 interviews, out of which only two were to Indian Media.
The press conference tomorrow is timed strategically. It comes in the backdrop of wide spread speculation that the party would announce its PM candidate for the upcoming LS polls mid January. Should the polls be held in time, the Election Commission diktat on cooling off period for government to make any big ticket announcement would come into play anytime end February?
This will only be the third full length press conference during Singh's second term as the Prime Minister which began in May 2009 even though he has met five Editors and a group of TV Editors once each. In UPA 1, Singh addressed press conference on Sept 4, 2004 and February 1, 2006. He has, however, spoken at length unhindered on board during his official travels abroad.
He has held 19 on-board press conferences. In May 2013, on his way back from Durban after attending the BRICS summit PM refrained from spelling out whether he would serve a fresh term if the Congress leadership nominates him for the top job for an unprecedented third time. “These are all hypothetical issues. We will cross the bridge when we reach there,” he told reporters then, suggesting he was unlikely to hang his boots anytime soon.
But in September 2013, he virtually ruled out himself out of the race for the top job in the country after the next elections. He said he would be happy to work for the Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
Interestingly, changing the trend of addressing media earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Singh now has offered to meet press on Friday. Coincidentally, it was a Wednesday when he interacted with Editors of TV and Print Media on Feb 16, 2011 and June 29, 2011 respectively.
Corruption and black money were two common issues during his earlier press meets during which he focused upon in his both press meets. While admitting corruption to be a big issue, he assured to eliminate to the extent possible the scope for corruption. On black money, he said the government was committed to pursue all that was fiscally possible to deal with the problem.
In his 70-minute interaction with editors of television channels, while promising a positive outlook for economy, Singh highlighted the achievements of UPA government. However, he looked helpless being the head of a minority government. He said, "Limitations of coalition politics cannot be ignored and some compromises had to be made while managing a coalition government”. Singh also promised to take all possible measures to bring back black money.
On June 29 2011, he interacted with newspaper journalists. He stated that the government was committed to a growth rate of 9 to 10 per cent per annum. However, the GDP growth rate in the second growth of current fiscal (2013-14) stood at 4.8 per cent. Singh also talked about plugging the leakages in health, education and the allocation of subsidies. He also promised to bring a Lokpal Bill which has now become a reality.
But tomorrow is another day. Will Dr Singh script his own future or read out from a prepared text? Stay tuned!
Exhibit 1- Factual details of PM’s interaction with Media (Both UPA 1 and 2)
Total Press Releases 1721
Total Interviews given 12
Interview to foreign media 10
Interview to Indian media 2
Full-fledged Press Conferences 2
First Press Release issued on May 23, 2004
Last Press Release issued on Dec, 31, 2013