New Delhi : Ending weeks of speculation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lived up to the message emanating from the grapevine that he would not be in the running for the third term when the general elections are held later this year.
”I will hand over the baton to a new prime minister. I hope it will be a UPA prime minister,” he said at a press conference that has been billed as his valedictory interaction with the media.
Though he ducked the issue of the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress party, indicating that party president Sonia Gandhi would take the decision, his lavish praise for Rahul gave ample indication of his preference. “I have ruled myself out as a PM candidate if UPA comes back to power. Rahul Gandhi has outstanding credentials to be the PM candidate,” he said.
That Rahul Gandhi is the party’s choice was also confirmed by Union information and broadcasting minister Manish Tiwari after the press conference as he expressed the hope that after the 2014 general elections the prime minister would be handing over the baton to the Congress vice-president.
But then the prime minister’s candid admissions about certain issues made sure that re-election or claiming his legacy is going to be a tough task. He admitted that his government has failed to tame inflation, and also conceded that the manufacturing sector had not generated enough employment, and finally also acknowledged that corruption is an issue. “Corruption is an issue and AAP has been able to make a success of their concern for eradication of corruption,” Singh said.
Likewise, he gave an indication that inflation could have been one of the reasons for the resounding defeat suffered by the Congress party in the December 2013 elections.” I would not like to speculate… but I will be honest enough to say that it could be that the price rise was a factor in the people turning against the Congress party”, he said.
His defence of the government’s track record was not really that robust and convincing either, especially on corruption. He claimed that the people had voted the UPA back to power in 2009 even though most of the scams related to the first term of his government. However, as his detractors pointed out the scams had played out only after 2009 in the public arena and the prime minister had conveniently forgotten this.