Manmohan a top leader, has achieved hell of a lot: Rahul (Roundup)

March 25th, 2009 - 8:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi Puducherry, March 25 (IANS) A day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi endorsed Manmohan Singh’s name as the prime ministerial candidate if the ruling coalition again came to power, her son and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi Wednesday said Manmohan Singh had achieved a “hell of a lot” and had both toughness and grit.
Rejecting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani’s charge that he was a weak leader, Rahul Gandhi said: “I guess, if he is a weak prime minister, he has achieved a hell of a lot.”

He also said Manmohan Singh was a “first class gentleman” and considered him to be “one of the top leaders” of the country.

Addressing a press conference, he said: “Let us not go back very far. During the (negotiations on) US deal, the prime minister showed tremendous grit, will and toughness. These are easy things to say. If he is a weak prime minister, he did not buckle in front of terrorists in Kandahar.

“He has achieved a lot for the country. I do not think he is weak. As a young leader of the Congress, he has my full support.”

Gandhi added: “He has kept the country faster than it has ever grown. He has brought massive pressure on our neighbour over the Mumbai issue and he has given us a strategic deal (with the US) which the previous government had not done.”

A war of words broke out Tuesday between the prime minister and Advani. While Manmohan Singh challenged the BJP leader’s ability to be prime minister, Advani hit back by again calling him weak.

But Rahul Gandhi avoided making any comments on Advani. He only said: “He is a senior leader. I can’t make comments about him. I am a youngster. I can only make comments about my leader.”

“I have had the pleasure of working with Manmohan Singh. I consider him to be one of the top leaders we have in the country. He is a first class gentleman. I don’t think he is weak in the least,” Rahul Gandhi, who is meeting Youth Congress leaders here, said.

Rahul expressed his surprise over the allegedly inflammatory speeches of cousin Varun Gandhi, a BJP candidate from Uttar Pradesh, that attracted a strong reprimand from the Election Commission, which even asked the party not to field him the elections.

“I am surprised by his views. Life is full of surprises,” he said.

“Those are his views. I have my views. I don’t carry hate and anger with me. Hatred and anger blind you,” Rahul Gandhi said.

He and Varun Gandhi are the grandsons of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and greatgrandsons of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Asked about his taking charge as the prime minister, he laughed: “I remember you were raising this issue even during the last elections in 2004. The press loves to raise this issue.”

He added that he was doing all he could to get more youngsters in the party and “I enjoy my job.” Gandhi said the “doors to politics” were “open to youngsters.”

He admitted that the Congress had declined considerably in Uttar Pradesh, though he expressed hope that it would do well in the coming elections.

“We have declined considerably in UP. (But) I am optimistic about the situation. The people of UP are coming to the conclusion that the options that they have tried are not working,” Gandhi said and added: “The state can not be run the way it is being run and has been run.”

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