Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s press conference, intended to announce his farewell and to blunt criticism against his government, raised more questions on the efficacy of his 10-year tenure. The prime minister admitted to having failed to curb corruption, check unemployment and inflation; and a lack of progress in implementing minority welfare schemes.
A total of 189 journalists attended the press conference. Singh, 81, answered 42 questions. He ruled out a third term as prime minister. While nearly 40% of the questions were repetitions, the PM too was repetitive in his replies. To most critical questions on his tenure, his answer was, “it is for historians to write” or “time will tell”.
During the 75-minute interaction, the prime minister remained stoic and sombre, not even smiling at the silly questions. While exuding “full confidence that the next PM will be again from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, he did not name Rahul Gandhi as his successor though he hailed him as the one who had “outstanding credentials to be the prime ministerial candidate”.
Manmohan Singh claimed that he had kept true to the economic liberalisation he had ushered in as finance minister in 1992 and as seen in the sustained economic growth, “a performance superior to that of NDA regime”.
Will he retire and write memoirs or continue actively in politics? He said he had not thought about it since it is “too early”...
Attacking the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi, he said, “it will be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as PM. Scoffing at the huge wave of support propelling Modi to head the next government, he said: “I sincerely believe that what Narendra Modi is saying is not going to materialise.”
He admitted that price rise was a factor for the defeat of the Congress in the recent assembly polls but didn’t buy the talk that the image of a corrupt government contributed to the defeat. He said corruption charges relating to 2G spectrum and coal block allocations were made during the UPA-I government. “We went to the electorate (in 2009) on the basis of our performance in that period and people gave us the mandate.” He denied that the party leadership ever asked him to step down for failure to curb corruption or price rise.