India

Indian PM Manmohan Singh to retire after elections

  • 3 January 2014
  • From the section India
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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced that he will not stay in the post if his Congress party wins the next election, due in the summer.

Mr Singh, 81, has been Indian PM for almost a decade.

He said a Congress candidate would be named at the appropriate time, but that deputy leader Rahul Gandhi had "outstanding credentials".

Mr Singh said it would be "disastrous for the country" if opposition leader Narendra Modi were elected PM.

Mr Modi leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which recently beat Congress in assembly elections in four politically crucial states.

"Someone who presided over the massacre of innocent people should not be the prime minister," Mr Singh said in uncharacteristically harsh words for Mr Modi.

Mr Modi is the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat and has been accused of doing little to stop the 2002 anti-Muslim riots there which left more than 1,000 people dead. Mr Modi has always denied any wrongdoing.

The BJP condemned Mr Singh's remark, saying Mr Modi had made Gujarat "a model of development for the country".

'Hand over baton'

For the past decade, Mr Singh has headed a coalition government led by Congress.

He has often been criticised for not speaking out more forcefully. Friday's press conference was only the third such briefing during his whole term of office.

Mr Singh spoke on a wide range of issues, including the economy, inflation and corruption.

"In a few months' time, after the general election, I will hand the baton over to a new prime minister," Mr Singh said in his opening remarks.

He said he was "confident" that the next prime minister would be from the Congress-led coalition and that Rahul Gandhi had outstanding credentials to be nominated as the party's candidate.

Rahul Gandhi with supporters
Mr Singh said Rahul Gandhi had excellent credentials to be the Congress candidate for PM

"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," he said.

"I have ruled myself out as a prime ministerial candidate," he added.

Mr Singh said the government was "deeply committed to the objective of combating corruption. An array of historical legislations has been enacted to make the work of the government transparent and accountable".

He defended his legacy, praised his government's work for the rural poor and farmers, and said that his government had "transformed the education landscape of the country".

Mr Singh has been one of India's longest serving prime ministers and is widely regarded as the architect of India's economic reforms programme.

However, in recent years, his government has been beset by corruption allegations, with disenchantment rising steadily.

On Thursday, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said Mr Singh should explain how he thought history would judge his tenure, referring to the PM's "failure" to assert himself on corruption and his "subversion" of constitutional institutions.

"Since his government is perceived to be extremely corrupt, where does he feel he went wrong in not asserting himself when the situation so demanded?" Mr Jaitley asked.

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