New Delhi : Politicians have always maintained Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a far better politico that he is an economist. The current economic situation certainly proves the second part of this statement, but with the sharpest ever attack on BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, he laid claim to the veracity of the first half of the statement.
In two sharp statements, Singh drove home his political message about Modi in a way that so far has been eschewed by the Congress party’s spokespersons. First he predicted that Modi would be disastrous as a prime minister. “Without discussing the merits of Narendra Modi, I sincerely believe that it will be disastrous for the country to have him as the PM,” he said.
Then he went on to mock the macho image of Modi by targeting his role in the post Godhra Gujarat riots. When his reaction was sought on Manmohan Singh being perceived widely as a “weak prime minister,” Singh shot back: “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.”
Even after the press conference had officially wound up, Singh readily took another question on Modi that was flung at him from the hall.
Asked about the Gujarat chief minister’s statement that India will be rid of the Congress in the coming general elections, he retorted: “I sincerely believe what Mr Narendra Modi is saying is not going to materialize.”
The prime minister also made a reference to the strength of democracy in his opening statement. “All of us who wish to build a better India, rid of poverty and corruption, must respect these institutions and work through them. They are the legitimate instruments in our hands, with all their limitations. No one individual or authority can substitute for the due processes of democratic governance,” he asserted, with the reference to Modi loud and clear.
These attacks drew blood as the BJP leaders were riled and they too reacted sharply against the Prime Minister.
Ironically, Singh does not believe that he is a ‘weak prime minister’ and said with a degree of finality, ”History will be kinder to me than contemporary media and opposition in Parliament.”
Asked what forces him to keep mum on many controversies, he said it were not true as “when needed he has spoken in party forums and will continue to do so.”
He also stoutly denied that the party leadership ever asked him to step down for failure to curb corruption and price rise. “Nobody asked me ever to step down because of any inadequacy.” He further asserted that his ten years as PM had been without hiccups.
On ministers defying him at times, he said he could not divulge what all happens in the Cabinet, but he could only say: “I have done the best I could under the circumstances.”
In reply to another question about the general perception about him, which has changed over the years, Singh said he was the same person as nine years ago, serving the nation with sincerity and someone who had “never enriched friends or relatives.”
But when it came to allegations against Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh of the Congress, the Prime Minister said he won’t be able to comment since he had no time to apply his mind to the issue.