Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday said he understood the anxieties of business leaders about red tape, tax laws and procedures but found them tough to address due to lack of political consensus on reforms.
Speaking at an interactive session at the HT Leadership summit here, the prime minister said the Congress cannot be complacent about the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
He said the bill to prevent communal violence was not a vote-catching gimmick and will help control aberrations that occur during outbreaks.
Manmohan Singh said the Congress cannot underestimate the power of the opposition and there was no room for complacency.
“As an organised political party, we cannot underestimate the power of the opposition to unsettle the ship of the state,” he said while replying to a question on the challenge posed by Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
“Therefore, I am one of those who take our opponents very seriously. There is no room for complacency,” he said.
Referring to the communal violence prevention bill, he said the government’s effort has been to create an environment where officials would have the responsibility to look after the law and order situation as effectively as is humanly possible.
The United Progressive Alliance government wants to bring the bill during the winter session of parliament. BJP is opposed to the bill.
In his speech, the prime minister said Indian business leaders have been worried in the past few months.
“I understand their anxieties about red tape, our tax laws and administration, our regulations and procedures. I often found it tough to deal with these challenges because of a lack of political consensus on the reforms we need to bring in,” he said but added that Indian business has shown enterprise to cope with competition.
Manmohan Singh said the country’s growth rate had more than doubled to an annual average of over seven percent and the economy was on an upward trajectory in the past 20 years.
“Today, many feel dissatisfied with a growth of five percent, while for more than two decades, five percent was the target rate of growth of our Five-Year Plans,” he added.
“There will be periodic ups and downs. The economic cycle presents us years of high performance and years of modest performance,” he said.
He also said that economic growth, social change and political empowerment have brought in their wake the new aspirations of an entirely new generation and contributed to growing impatience for faster growth and better quality of life.
He said some well-meaning and concerned citizens tried to spread cynicism about the political class over the past two years.
“Many began to suggest that democracy had not served India well and attacked Parliament by refusing to respect its judgment. Did that turn people against democracy? No. Look at the voter turnout at every election over the past two years and in the just-concluded assembly elections,” he said.
He said terrorism was being defeated in minds of people because they were refusing to respond to such attacks in the manner in which the ideologues of terror would want to.
Lauding former premier P.V. Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh said momentous decisions were taken with respect to economic and foreign policies under his leadership in the early nineties.
He said the unyielding spirit of the Indian people should be celebrated at all times.