independent

Monday 21 April 2014

India's prime minister says he'll quit after next election

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks during a news conference in New Delhi January 3, 2014. Singh will hand over the top job to a new leader after general elections due by May
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks during a news conference in New Delhi January 3, 2014. Singh will hand over the top job to a new leader after general elections due by May

India's prime minister used his first press conference for three years to announce something everyone suspected -- that he will stand down after the next election, whether his party wins or not.

Manmohan Singh also used the occasion to launch a surprisingly barbed attack on the main opposition candidate, saying he would be disastrous for the country.

During an hour-long event that highlighted how India's preparations for a general election were becoming increasingly bitter, Mr Singh announced he would not seek a third term.

The 81-year-old, who has headed a Congress Party-led coalition for almost 10 years, said he believed Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, should become the next prime minister.

By contrast, he said Narendra Modi, candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, would not be a good leader for India.

"Without discussing the merits of Modi, it would be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as the next prime minister," said Mr Singh, who was asked about claims from the opposition that he had been a weak prime minister.

"If by a strong prime minister they mean you preside over the massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmadabad, if that is the measure of strength, I do not believe that is the sort of strength this country needs."

Mr Singh, who is usually credited for introducing liberalising reforms which helped India's growth after 1991, became prime minister in 2004. He did so after the Congress Party secured a surprise victory and Sonia Gandhi, head of the party and the widow of assassinated prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, declined to become premier.

His first term received widespread recognition for continuing reforms as well as introducing a series of bills designed to help India's poorest. The Congress, with Mr Singh as the candidate, was re-elected in 2009.

But his second term has been widely condemned, not only by those who have urged him to enact more reforms to help the faltering economy, but by those angered by the repeated revelations of public corruption. Many of the allegations of corruption have been levelled at the government. (© Independent News Service)

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