Friday, January 03, 2014

PM rules out third term

File photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
NEW DELHI (AA) - In a rare press conference Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday surprised political analysts by attacking his arch-rival and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
In an hour-long press conference at the newly inaugurated National Media Centre, Singh, who is known for his composed behaviour, took a volley of questions from reporters after reading out a four-page statement.
81-year old Singh, who is in his second-term as the Prime Minister, minced no words in attacking Modi.
“Without discussing the merits of Narendra Modi, I sincerely believe that it will be disastrous for the country to have Modi as the PM,” an expressionless Singh said calmly.
When asked that he is perceived as a “weak Prime Minister”, Singh shot back challenging the definition of “weak”.
“If by strong prime minister you mean you preside over the massacre of innocents on the streets of Ahmedabad, that is not the kind of strength I will like to have,” Singh said in an apparent reference to 2002 Gujarat riots under the chief ministership of Modi who is considered by many as the next prime minister.
Gujarat riots of 2002 killed more than a 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Asked about Gujarat chief minister Modi’s statement that India will eliminate Congress in the upcoming general election, Singh said it's not going to happen.
“I sincerely believe what Mr Narendra Modi is saying is not going to materialize,” he said.
Flanked by Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tiwari, Singh addressed Friday’s press conference after a gap of two years answering critical questions on a range of policy issues like corruption, economic crisis in the 10 year rule of Congress-led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) coalition government.
Singh seemed to be kind towards the newly-emerged Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or Common Man’s Party which formed the government in Delhi assembly elections.
“Time will tell (if AAP has been) capable of dealing with challenges. (They) must be given time to justify themselves,” he said.
Singh made it clear that he will step aside after the upcoming general elections and will not be in the race for the post of Prime Minister.
When asked whether Congress party will name Gandhi scion and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate, Singh said the party will decide about it at an appropriate time.
“Rahul Gandhi has outstanding credentials to be nominated as the prime ministerial candidate, and I hope our party will take that decision at the appropriate time,” he said.
Singh took in his stride the contemporary criticism that has always put him in the dock saying that “history will judge” him differently.
When asked about the spate of corruption scandals in his coalition government, Singh retorted that most of the corruption allegations were levelled in the first term of UPA from 2004 to 2009 and Indians didn’t pay much attention to the corruption charges as UPA was reelected in 2009 evoking a strong reaction from the BJP.
Senior BJP leader and leader of Opposition in upper house of Indian Parliament Arun Jaitely termed Singh’s “tenure” as a “wasted opportunity” accusing the prime minister of not providing any direction to the country.
Jaitely criticized Singh’s strong language against Modi and termed it as lowering the “dignity of Prime Minister’s Office”.
“The use of such language against Narendra Modi does not add to the dignity of Prime Minister's office. The dirty tricks department of the Congress party has carried out certain tricks against Narendra Modi. If the dirty tricks department used such language, it was understandable. I am sure the Prime Minister of India is not a party of that dirty tricks department,” Jaitley said.

Anadolu Agency, January 3, 2014

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