Manmohan Singh said on Friday said he will step down as the prime minister after the upcoming elections and will not run as candidate for the top executive role for Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), as widely anticipated. In his last address to the press as the prime minister, he also attempted a weak defence of the performance of his government.
While the media was rife with rumours that he will tender his resignation on Friday, Singh said: "In a few months’ time, 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, and our party will work to that end in the campaign for the general elections."
He also stopped short of naming Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate but added, “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.”
Although he refrained from making direct remarks in his official address, during the interaction he made a strong remark against the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition party Narendra Modi.
"Without going into the credentials of anyone, I think it will be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as the PM," according to Singh.
We went on to say that, "Strong leader does not mean you preside over the mass massacre of people in Ahmedabad."
Talking about the economy, he said we are set for better times and the cycle of global economic growth is turning for the better. “Many of the steps we have taken to address our domestic constraints are coming into play. India’s own growth momentum will revive,” he said.
Singh also touched upon some key issues facing the country, including inflation. While noting the failure of the ruling government to control the persistent inflation, primarily led by food inflation, he said: “The worry about inflation is legitimate but we should also recognise that incomes for most people have increased faster than inflation. I have already mentioned that real wages in rural areas have increased faster than before."
He also stressed on the growth during his tenure, “During my first term in office, India witnessed for the first time in its recorded history a short acceleration of the rate of economic growth to 9 per cent. This exceptional performance was followed by a slowdown initiated by the global financial crisis. Over the past couple of years, all emerging economies have experienced a slowdown. India was no exception.”
Singh went on to say that economies have ups and downs and one should not focus overly on the short term. “We should recognise that even if we include the years of slowdown, the rate of growth achieved in the past nine years, is the highest for any nine-year period,” he said.
The octogenarian expressed his disappointment over not achieving required results in generating employment in the crisis-ridden manufacturing sector, which is the key driver for Indian economy.
"This is an aspect of performance which we are working hard to correct. We need a much stronger effort in support of small and medium enterprises which can be a major source of good quality employment," Singh said.
Talking about the burning issue of corruption, he said the government has taken major steps to change the existing procedures for allocation of spectrum and coal by shifting to auctions so that these problems do not arise in future.
“Where some decisions taken earlier, when allocations were made administratively, have come under question, they are being investigated. Any wrong doing will be punished through due process of law,” he said.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)