Not quitting, BJP negating democracy: PM


On Board Air India One: A combative Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday asserted he was here to stay and attacked the BJP for its “diversionary tactics” in stalling parliament and demanding his resignation over grant of coal mining rights that has swirled into a major national controversy.

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He said the UPA-II government was elected for a five year term and the BJP should respect the “verdict of the people”.

Speaking to reporters on board his special aircraft on way back from Tehran he said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should wait for the 2014 general elections to test its strength, rather than seeking to remove him from office arbitrarily.

“If I were resigning, I won’t be here,” the prime minister said bluntly on his return from a four-day visit to Tehran to attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit.

“The people have elected this government for a five-year term. I hope BJP will respect the verdict and let the parliament function. If they would like to run it their way, that would be a negation of democracy,” Manmohan Singh said forcefully.

This is the first time the prime minister, who has been under attack for much of the last two weeks, has spoken on this issue. He was relaxed and at no point looked a man who has been under so much political pressure in much of the last fortnight.

Unable to speak in parliament, that was repeatedly disrupted by the BJP and its allies, Manmohan Singh read out a statement Monday that could not be heard in the din.

His office then gave the statement to the media.

“The BJP is indulging in diversionary tactics,” he said, adding that he hoped the opposition party would see sense and let parliament function.

Parliament has been stalled for the past eight days of its functioning over the coal allocation which the government auditor has faulted alleging huge loss to the exchequer. Manmohan Singh was the coal minister during UPA-I.

He also said he did not want to get into a slanging match with the BJP on the issue as he wanted to maintain the dignity of his office.

“I have to maintain the dignity of the office of the prime minister. I can’t get into a tu-tu main-main (personal villification) or a slanging match with other political leaders. So it is better, as I said earlier, that I keep silence,” he said.

The prime minister had on Monday recited an Urdu couplet that meant his silence is better than a thousand answers after the BJP refused to let him make a statement in parliament on the coal block allocation. He had also said the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the federal auditor, alleging impropriety in coal block allocation to private players were “clearly disputable” and “flawed on multiple counts”.

“We can’t continue to make a mess of democracy,” he said, making it clear that he was here to stay.

But the BJP hit back, saying “if the main accused continues to hold his position, then what will happen to the country.”

“..why does he have so much of love for the office which does not have any real power to run the regime,” said BJP leader Balbir Punj.

The prime minister lamented “lack of cohesion in domestic policy” as one of the reasons for his government not being able to push forward economic reforms.

“There are lots of things we would have liked to do. Certainly, lay the foundation for nine percent growth rate but international events have not helped”, he said when asked whether he had any regrets about not achieving what he set out to achieve.

He once again said he has invited Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi to join the government and hoped he would do so” “I have invited him to be part of cabinet many times… I hope this time he will consider it very seriously.”