Manmohan Singh opts out of PM race, targets Modi
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday announced his decision to opt out for a third term at helm if Congress was voted to power but stopped short of naming Rahul Gandhi as his successor even as he went hammer and tongs on BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, calling him massacre-tainted recipe for disaster.
The PM's hard hitting statement on Modi evoked angry reaction from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which called his utterances devoid of dignity and laughable.
Singh did not lose the opportunity to hit out at BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and said it will be disastrous if he becomes the Prime Minister of the country.
"It would be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as Prime Minister," said the PM in his much touted press conference.
Singh said Modi is "someone who has presided over a mass massacre."
He said he never believed he was a weak Prime Minister and historians will judge his tenure and then again attacked Modi saying that if strength means supervising the massacres on the streets of Ahmedabad then he does not need that strength.
Singh, however, made it clear that he would not be in the race for a third term as PM if Congress was voted to power in the general elections this year but did not name Rahul Gandhi as his successor yet.
"After the general election, I will hand the baton over to a new Prime Minister. I hope it will be a UPA chosen Prime Minister and our party will work to that end in the campaign for the General Elections," he said in a much awaited press conference here.
"I will not be candidate for prime ministership if UPA comes back to power," he said.
He said Rahul Gandhi has outstanding credentials to be nominated as the prime ministerial candidate and hoped that the party will take that decision at an appropriate time.
"We will announce the candidate for PM at an appropriate time," he said.
"I am confident that the next Prime Minister will be from the UPA coalition," said the PM.
Highlighting the past 10 years when he has been the Prime Minister of the country, Singh said: "Over the past decade we have been through many ups and downs. During my first term in office, India witnessed for the first time in its recorded history a sudden acceleration of economic growth to 9.0 per cent. This exceptional performance was followed by a slowdown initiated by the global financial crisis. Over the past couple of years, all Emerging Economies have experienced a slowdown. India was no exception."
"Economies have ups and downs and we should not focus overly on the short term. We should recognize that even if we include the years of slowdown, the rate of growth achieved in the past nine years, is the highest for any nine year period. And it is not just the acceleration of growth that gives me satisfaction. Equally important is the fact that we made the growth process more socially inclusive than it has ever been," he said.
He said the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has assured agricultural labour of a floor and has increased 'their bargaining power'.
Singh said in the past 10 years India has become one of the world's largest producers of food-grains, sugar, fruits and vegetables, milk and poultry.
Rural wages have increased in real terms much faster than earlier, he said.
"Rural real consumption per capita has increased four times faster. Because of these developments the percentage of the population below the poverty line has fallen much faster in the period 2004 to 2011 than it did in the previous ten year period. As a result, the number of people below the poverty line has come down by 13.8 crore," Singh said.
Speaking on food security bill, Singh said: "I am happy to say that the Food Security Act that we have passed will to some extent shield the common man from rising food prices."
Singh said that real wages in rural areas have increased faster than before during his tenure.
Singh illustrated the steps his government has taken to combat against corruptions, including the coal scam and 2G scam, which had hit his government.
"There is much public concern on high profile allegations of corruption, notably in regard to 2G spectrum allocations, coal block allocations and cases related to land. We have taken major steps to change the existing procedures for allocation of spectrum and coal by shifting to auctions so that these problems do not arise in future. Where some decisions taken earlier, when allocations were made administratively, have come under question, they are being investigated. Any wrong doing will be punished through due process of law," the PM said.
Singh said only time will tell if Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) , which formed the government in Delhi, will succeed in the long run.
When asked about the AAP, Singh said: "Whether they will succeed or not, only time will tell."
He said AAP came to power certainly on the issue of corruption but dealing with corruption is not an easy process and there are both opportunities and challenges for that.
"We must collectively grapple with the task of dealing with corruption. This is not a matter which only one party can accomplish. Various political parties have to work together to deal with this monster," he said.
He also strongly defended himself in the coal scam, 2G and other such cases.
"I feel somewhat sad because I was the one who insisted that spectrum allocations should be transparent. I was the one who insisted that coal blocks should be allocated on the basis of auctions," he said.
"These facts are forgotten and the Opposition has vested interests. When history is written we will come out unscathed. This is not to say there weren't regularities," he said.
The BJP was sharp in attacking the PM following his speech as party president Rajnath Singh slammed him for criticising Narendra Modi.
"He said if Modi becomes a PM the country will be ruined. During his rule in Gujarat he made it a model state in terms of development. So the remark is laughable. What had happened in 2002 was tragic but when SIT and courts have given clean chit to Modi and hence the statement of PM is condemnable," said the BJP president.
Rajnath Singh said the PM called the press conference to discuss his own non-performance.
"It is laughable to say UPA did better than the NDA [National Democratic Alliance led by BJP]. India had become a current account surplus country during NDA regime and growth rate was 8.4. The growth rate came down during UPA," said Singh.
He said if they have not been able to control corruption, inflation and could not create new employment opportunities as admitted by the PM, then how come they sit on the chair?
He said there was no corruption charge on BJP ministers or the PM during NDA rule.
In another press conference, BJP leader Arun Jaitley called the press conference of the PM a farce.
He said the PM's mind space on corruption is reducing. He said the PM had to admit failure on corruption control and voters will give a reply in polls.
Jaitley said Modi has won three polls in Gujarat and the PM's remarks lacked dignity of his office.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister did not leave behind the Pakistan issue.
"I would very much like to go to Pakistan. I was born in a village which is now part of west Punjab. But as Prime Minister of the country, I should go to visit Pakistan if conditions are appropriate to achieve solid results. I have thought of it many times, but ultimately I felt that circumstances were not appropriate for my visit. I still have not given up hope of going to Pakistan before I complete my tenure as Prime Minister," he said.
When asked to mark his tenure on a scale of ten, Singh said it is for the people to judge adding that he has done reasonably well.
"It is for you to judge. As far as I am concerned, I feel I have done reasonably well. The growth process that we sustained in the last ten years despite the global financial crisis, despite the Euro-zone crisis, and considering also what is happening in other emerging countries like Brazil, like South Africa, like Indonesia, I don't think ours is a story which can be described as non-successful or eventful," he said.
Attacked with several criticisms during his tenure, Singh said the best moment for him was when the UPA government was able to strike a nuclear deal with the United States to end the nuclear apartheid which had sought to stifle the processes of social and economic change, and technical progress of India.
When asked to comment on himself as an over-rated economist and under-rated politician, which even his partymen considers, Singh said, "What you think of me or what the country thinks of me is something I cannot speculate on."
"As I mentioned earlier, I have tried to serve my country with the greatest sense of dedication and commitment. When I became Prime Minister, the general perception was, that the Congress Party has never been able to run a coalition government," he said.
"The Congress ability to run a coalition government was to be tested, and we showed that the Congress party can successfully manage the coalition to complete not one, but two terms. In the process, there have been some compromises, but I can assure you that those compromises relate to peripheral areas. They do not in any way affect our ability or our keenness to deal with national problems with the objectivity that is necessary," the PM said.
(Posted on 03-01-2014)