Combative PM takes on Advani, keeps door open for Left support (Roundup)

April 10th, 2009 - 10:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Devirupa Mitra
New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) Less than a week before the elections, a combative Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he did not want to accord Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani the status of an “alternative prime minister”, kept open the door for Left support and lauded the Congress party decision to drop Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar as poll candidates.

In a rare interaction with about 100 women journalists at the Taj Palace Hotel, the prime minister was in a campaign mode, questioning Advani’s own record when he was in power, made light of his challenge for a TV debate and asserted he had been a decisive prime minister in the last five years.

Attacking Advani for repeatedly calling him a weak prime minister, Manmohan Singh retorted: “I am not used to abusive language. That is the culture inherited from parents, from teachers and the concept of what Indianness is.”

“Using harsh language does not solve any problem and accentuates conflict,” he said in his interaction with members of the Indian Women’s Press Corps.

Alluding to Advani’s challenge to him for a American-style nationally televised debate, Manmohan Singh said that I can’t match “Advaniji in public speaking or asserting things.

“I am not a good speaker, but I take decisions.

“I believe that the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” he asked.

“The BJP has not allowed parliament to function. The BJP shied away from all these discussions and now Advani wants to come and debate with me. And I don’t want to give him the privilege that he is an alternative prime minister,” he said.

He then went on to question the record of Advani when the NDA government was at the centre. “What is the record of Advaniji? He was present at the time when Babri Masjid was demolished. If he was a strong leader, he would have staked his reputation in preventing the carnage”.

Singh said that as per the BJP’s manifesto in 1999, the first priority after coming to power would be to have a white paper on ISI. “He completely forgot that promise in five years of BJP government,” he said.

He then pointed out that the BJP government had to send its foreign minister to talk to the Taliban in Kandahar and referred to the Gujarat riots which took place during the tenure Advani as home minister.

Manmohan Singh also took on Advani for taunting him for not contesting Lok Sabha polls. “There have been PMs from Rajya Sabha. Advani has to amend the constitution to ensure that his wishes prevail. Indira Gandhi had been one for one and half years, H.D. Deve Gowda, I.K. Gujral too,” he replied when asked whether he was planning to contest Lok Sabha polls.

Speaking if he will take Left support in a post-election scenario to form the government, the prime minister said: “I have successfully led a coalition government. For four and a half years, Left was quite happy.”

“Only one issue, on the nuclear issue, they parted ways. I have great regard and respect for my Left colleagues. I have repeatedly said that I greatly regret their leaving,” Manmohan Singh said.

“As for the future, who can judge. We will cross that bridge when we go there,” he added.

He felt that the Left parties or the “so-called Third Front” cannot form the government on their own and were merely helping to strengthen the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“I sincerely believe that by themselves they (Left parties) cannot form the government (after the election). They can only divide the secular vote,” Manmohan Singh said.

“Witting or unwittingly, Left parties are strengthening the BJP,” he added.

A day after Congress withdrew the candidatures of Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar from Delhi, Singh said his party is sensitive to the feelings of the Sikh community.

“That the decisions have been reversed shows the sensitivity of the Congress party to the Sikh community. Der aaye durust aaye (Better late than never), therefore compliment the Congress party,” he said.

An emotional Manmohan Singh had apologised in parliament on behalf of the country for the death of over 3,000 Sikhs in the riots that followed former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.

Manmohan Singh also denied the charges that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report was manipulated in favour of Jagdish Tytler.

“I was not informed or consulted. When I came to of it (about the clean chit), I spoke to the CBI director. He said it was routine report made in connection with court case. Any charge that we have manipulated the CBI report is totally false.”

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