New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday said he will step down after the Lok Sabha election and – not mincing words – said that BJP leader Narendra Modi will be a disaster if he got to rule India.
“Without discussing the merits of Narendra Modi, I sincerely believe that it will be disastrous for the country to have Modi as the PM,” Manmohan Singh told the media here.
It is the harshest criticism of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate that the usually reticent Manmohan Singh has made.
In the same breath, the 81-year-old leader, who has been prime minister since 2004, announced that “in a few months time, 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,” he said. “I will not be a candidate for prime ministership if the UPA comes back to power.”
Manmohan Singh, whose government is facing a crisis of confidence, didn’t say who will be the UPA’s prime ministerial nominee but rooted for Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.
“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.”
In a 75-minute formal press conference, the first such in three years, the economist-turned-politician answered a variety of questions ranging from corruption to Pakistan.
Rebutting criticism about his performance, Manmohan Singh said history would be kinder to him than the media or the opposition, and insisted that he had done his best.
“Taking into account the circumstances and compulsions of coalition polity, I have done as best as I could do under the circumstances.”
He admitted that rising prices of essential commodities was a major reason why the Congress lost elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
“I will be honest enough to say that price rise was a factor in people turning against the Congress.”
The prime minister described corruption as a “monster” but insisted that dealing with it was no easy task.
“Dealing with corruption is not an easy process even though there may be opportunities as well as challenges.
“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 admitted that the one-year-old Aam Aadmi Party was able to take power in Delhi by articulating people’s concerns over corruption. “Whether they will succeed or not, only time will tell.”
Despite announcing that he won’t be the prime minister for another term, Manmohan Singh said he had enjoyed his work in the last 10 years, and that he never felt like quitting.
Did he ever feel like putting in his papers out of frustration?
“I never felt like resigning at any time. I have enjoyed doing my work. I have tried to do my work with all honesty, with all sense of integrity without regard for fear or favour.”
Manmohan Singh said he did desire to go Pakistan and added that the India-US row over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York would end soon.
Asked why he had not gone to Pakistan since taking office in 2004, he said he “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, I should go to Pakistan if conditions are appropriate to achieve solid results.
“Ultimately I felt that the circumstances were not appropriate (to visit Pakistan). I still have not given up the hope of going to Pakistan before (giving up office).”
On Indo-US relations, he said: “There have been recently some hiccups but I sincerely believe that these are temporary aberrations, and diplomacy should be given a chance to resolve the issues that have arisen.”