Chennai: Dismissing the opposition charge that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was "weak", Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday asserted he was "very much alert and proactive" to all issues including corruption.
"The Prime Minister is very much alert and proactive. He is taking appropriate action," Mukherjee told reporters in Chennai after releasing the Congress manifesto for the April 13 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.
Responding to queries on AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa's charge that Singh was a "week-kneed" prime minister, which also is a constant refrain of the opposition, he said, "It is not correct."
On the Lokpal issue and the four-day fast-unto-death by noted social activist Anna Hazare, Mukherjee said the bill had been in existence since 1970 but political parties had not agreed on its content.
"Even during the NDA regime, a Standing Committee under my chairmanship had made some recommendations which could not be implemented," Mukherjee, who is heading the joint committee to draft a stronger Lokpal Bill announced by the government on Saturday, said. He said civil society members had made some recommendations on the Jan Lokpal seeking the PMO and judiciary to be brought under its purview.
Asked whether fast by Hazare and the outpouring national support was a reaction to the various alleged scams in the UPA regime, he said investigations were underway into them and "law will take its own course", be it the 2G spectrum allocation scam or the CWG.
On poll-bound Tamil Nadu, he said the state's financial position was good and sought voters' support for the DMK-led alliance to come back to power in order to bring in more investments and better economic development.
Asked if the party would press for cabinet berths in case the combine won, he said, "We will cross the bridge when it comes, i.e, during government formation. The immediate priority was to ensure a majority."
He said there was smooth cooperation between the DMK and Congress but frictions were bound to exist in a multi-party democracy. The Congress and DMK had to recently undergo testing times following a roadblock in seat-sharing talks which was solved after much drama including the DMK offering to quit the Union cabinet.
Quoting statistics, Mukherjee said central fund allocation to Tamil Nadu has been on the increase and there would be "no dearth" of cooperation in the coming years too. Addressing an election rally at Karikalambakkam village in Puducherry, Mukherjee said Puducherry was far ahead of the national average and of other States including Tamil Nadu in the growth in GDP.
The rate of GDP growth in Puducherry was 14 per cent while it was 8.5 per cent at the national level, he said, asking the electorate to vote for the Congress and its allies again. "What a welfare state should do for the people has been accomplished by the Puducherry government and hence the Congress and its allies should be elected once again to power in Puducherry," he said.
He highlighted provisions of the poll manifesto released by Puducherry PCC recently. The Finance Minister said the Central government had increased the procurement price for paddy from Rs 1060 a quintal to Rs 1080 and an extra incentive of Rs 50 was also made available per quintal of paddy as bonus for the farmers.
With the formulation of several tourism projects and proposal to set up one Special economic Zone each in Puducherry and Karaikal the promise contained in the election manifesto that one member in each family would be provided employment could be easily achieved.
He also assured the gathering that the Centre would soon bring into effect the Right to Food Act which would be one more feather in its cap of achievements. The UPA government was working for the protection and privileges of the poorer sections and also of those in the lowest strata of society.
Chief Minister V Vaithilingam and Union Minister V Narayanasamy were among those present.
The village falls under Embalam reserved segment where Welfare Minister M Kandasamy (Congress) is pitted against All India NR Congress nominee P Rajavelu.