Zee Media Bureau/Ajith Vijay Kumar
New Delhi: In a rare interaction with media after almost four years, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Friday stunned everyone when he announced that he would soon hand over "the baton" to a new generation leader, hopefully from the UPA, after the 2014 General Elections.
The Prime Minister, while defending the track record of the UPA 1 and II government led by him, said that he has done as best as he could and rooted for Rahul Gandhi as the Congress` PM candidate for the next Lok Sabha polls.
In what was probably his last press conference before his second term as Prime Minister ends in a few months from now, Dr Singh also launched one of his sharpest attacks on the BJP`s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, questioning his credentials for the top job.
The Prime Minister went on and said Narendra Modi`s elevation as prime minister would be “disastrous for the country”.
The 81-year-old leader minced no words when he made it clear that he would not seek a third term as prime minister and said that it is for the historians to judge his 10 years as Prime Minister, hoping that history would be kinder to him than contemporary media and the opposition parties in Parliament .
The over 75-minute long press conference, his third as PM, was held at the National Media Centre in the national capital.
Will hand over the baton in 2014
"In a few months time, after the general election, I will hand the baton over to a new prime minister," the PM said, adding,"I will not be a candidate for prime ministership if the UPA comes back to power."
"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.
"I am confident that the new generation of our leaders will also guide this great nation successfully through the uncharted and uncertain waters of global change," he added.
“I still have not thought through what I will do after
my tenure ends as Prime Minister,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi has outstanding credentials
Manmohan Singh backed the voices within the Congress to name Rahul Gandhi as party`s prime ministerial candidate.
"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."
To another question, he said: "I have always felt that our government would have been strengthened if Rahul had been part of our government, but Rahul felt he had responsibilities to the party which did not permit him to join the government and I respect that."
I have served as best I could
Manmohan Singh said he had enjoyed his work in the last 10 years, and that he never felt like quitting.
“I have served the country with utmost dedication and
integrity,” he said.
"I do not believe that I have been a weak Prime Minister .... I honestly believe that history will be kinder to me than the contemporary media or for that matter the Opposition in Parliament.... Given the political compulsions, I have done the best I could do...I have done as well as I could do according to the circumstances...It is for history to judge what I have done or what I have not done,” he said.
On his silence
When asked about his alleged silence on issues, the Prime Minister said, "I have spoken whenever its needed...be it party forum or elsewhere. And I will continue to speak as and when needed."
Corruption and price rise
Describing corruption as a "monster", Manmohan Singh insisted that dealing with it was no easy task.
"Dealing with corruption not an easy process. All parties
must collectively grapple with it. Various political parties have to work together to deal with this monster. This is not a matter which only one party can accomplish,” he said.
Defending the government, he said, “Corruption charges against government relate to UPA-I and people of the country have not heeded to those charges and given us a second term.”
“On corruption charges the opposition had vested interest
and media, CAG and other entities played on it some times. It was in fact I who insisted on transparency in coal block allocation,” he said.
“I have never used my office to enrich my friends or relatives,” he said.
A candid Manmohan Singh also 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," he opined.
On the issue of price rise, Manmohan Singh said that, while the government could have done better to deal with the problem but there were also a number of reasons for it which were not in government`s control.
However, he admitted that rising prices of essential commodities was a major reason why the Congress lost elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
"I will be honest enough to say that price rise was a factor in people turning against the Congress,” he said.
“We will reflect on the results of assembly elections and
learn appropriate lessons,” he stressed.
Also Read: Indian democracy has strengthened: PM
On Sonia Gandhi
“Mrs. Gandhi`s support has been enormous, especially in dealing with complex issues,” PM said, adding “Believe that an arrangement where Congress President & PM are not the same person has worked tremendously well.”
In reply to another question, he said, “It is not a disadvantage or drawback to make corrections on the direction of party leadership in national interest.”
“Nobody (in Congress) has asked me to step down because of
any inadequacies as Prime Minister,” he added.
Achievements and disappointments
“My best moment as PM was when we struck a nuclear deal with the US,” he said.
“My two terms have displayed the Congress` ability to run
a coalition government. Compromises were made in peripheral issues and not on national problems,” he said.
“Will endeavour to create an atmosphere to pass five-six
anti-corruption bills in Parliament,” he added.
“I regret that the benefits of implementation of Sachar
Committee recommendations could not reach all people, he said.
Dr Singh also spoke on the 1984 riots. He said, “I have publicly apologised to the Sikh community on behalf of the government. What happened in 1984 should have never happened.”
Also Read: What the UPA has achieved
Desire to visit to Pakistan
On his efforts to normalise relations with Pakistan, Manmohan Singh and why he had not gone to Pakistan since taking office in 2004, he said, "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."