PM talks peace with Advani, but has ‘no regrets’ for barbs


Guwahati : After over a week’s stinging tirade against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday declared a ceasefire stating that he did not wish to “continue the match” but maintained he had no regrets over his utterances.

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“I don’t want to prolong the match and the dialogue. Whatever I had to say I have said already,” Manmohan Singh told reporters.

The prime minister had retaliated with sharp criticism after Advani repeatedly called him a “weak prime minister”.

However, asked separately about his attack on Advani in an interview with NDTV, the prime minister said: “No. I don’t regret anything because Mr. Advani has been mudslinging for the last five years against me. He has been saying I am a nikamma PM, subservient to Sonia Gandhi that I am the weakest PM.”

“These are charges which have hurt me but I have never said anything. Mr. Advani has no business to complain. He started it, he’s been at it for last five years and it’s only now that I have replied to that sort of mudslinging,” Manmohan Singh reiterated.

Manmohan Singh had questioned his opponent’s record in the government and stated that the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 right under Advani’s nose and that he was the home minister when the BJP-led government freed terrorists in return for release of hostages aboard a hijacked Indian plane in Afghanistan in 1999.

Meanwhile, the prime minister rejected Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad’s charge that the Congress too was to blame for Babri Masjid demolition, saying the BJP was solely responsible for it.

“We can’t be blamed,” Manmohan Singh said reacting to Lalu Prasad’s remarks on Friday and Saturday.

While the Congress was in power in New Delhi then, the BJP was ruling Uttar Pradesh.

Manmohan Singh said then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh “did what he did” despite his affidavit to the apex court that he would protect the 16th century mosque.

“It is known to everybody that then BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh gave a solid assurance to the Supreme Court and after that he did what he did. The Congress party certainly cannot be blamed because it believed that Kalyan Singh would honour the affidavit given to the Supreme Court.”

“But he didn’t honour it and that is the only fault you can find with the Congress party with regard to the demolition of the Babri Masjid,” the prime minister said.

Railways Minister Lalu Prasad had said in Bihar that the Congress was also to blame for the demolition as it did nothing to prevent it, despite being in power at the centre then.

At a public rally, Manmohan Singh said: “Communalism, terrorism, and Naxalism (Maoism), are today a big threat to the country’s unity and integrity, but we are committed to fighting all these evils with a firm hand. To defeat communalism, we all have to vote for the Congress party as we are the only party that stands for secularism.”

Referring to the Nov 26 attacks, he said: “During the Mumbai terror attacks our government handled the situation very firmly…. But did the opposition government at the centre (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) ever take such bold steps?”

“I don’t have to elaborate on that. There is a lot of difference and contradictions in the way the BJP speaks and the way they actually act,” he said.

On the global financial crisis, the prime minister said the meltdown was a result of “financial mismanagement” by developed countries and it would blow over “partially” by September.

“This crisis has arisen due to mishandling of the financial system by the major developed countries,” he said. Then, the growth rate of 8 to 9 percent would be restored, he added.

He also said the Congress if voted to power would make a renewed effort to curb militancy and terror even as he appealed to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for peace talks.

“Our doors for peace talks are open and we want the ULFA to shun the path of violence and come and hold peace talks with us,” Manmohan Singh said.