I will not seek third term: PM

Manmohan backs Rahul, hopes UPA will get another chance

I will not seek third term: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday announced that he was not in the race for a third term but would continue in office for the remaining five months.

He also warned that Narendra Modi as prime minister would be “disastrous” for the country.

“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.

Singh’s remarks at a rare press conference here were seen as paving the way for the Congress to announce Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate for the April-May Lok Sabha elections. He also showered praise on Gandhi saying he had “outstanding credentials” to be announced as the prime ministerial candidate and hoped that the Congress would take “that decision at the appropriate time”.

Singh chose the occasion to send a clear message that he was here to stay till the end of his tenure despite a section of the leadership blaming his policies for the party’s rout in the recent Assembly elections in three states and Delhi.

He trashed suggestions that a “dual power centre”, a situation where Congress president Sonia Gandhi had the final say, put him at a disadvantage. He also said nobody has ever asked him to step down because of any “inadequacies that may have characterised his tenure.

When asked about his being perceived as a “weak” prime minister, Singh made an uncharacteristically strong attack on Modi: “If, by strong prime minister, you mean that you preside over mass massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmedabad, if that is the measure of strength, I do not believe that kind of strength this country needs, least of all in its prime minister.”

Singh began his tenure in 2004 as “Mr Clean” but his personal integrity was questioned during the last 10 years as charges of corruption against his ministers and his inability to deal with them increased. He, however, put up a brave face and said history would be kinder in judging him than contemporary media. The prime minister admitted that he had to make some compromises while running the coalition but it did not affect the ability of the government to deal with national problems objectively.

At a time when the Congress is emphasising the steps it took to fight corruption and ensure food security, the Prime Minister chose the Indo-US nuclear deal as the “best moment” in his tenure at the helm.

Singh also said he had not given up his hope to visit Pakistan in the remaining five months of his tenure. He agreed with a questioner that India and Pakistan were on the verge of a historic deal on Jammu and Kashmir but the process was frozen as the then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had to make way for a different setup.

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