Not quitting; Modi challenge must be met: PM

Prime Miinister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said he would not quit over the perceived undermining of his authority and that of his cabinet by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.

Prime Miinister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said he would not quit over the perceived undermining of his authority and that of his cabinet by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, noting differences of viewpoints was “what a democracy is about”. He also said that “the people will take account of the good work, the solid achievements of the UPA ” when they cast their votes during the 2014 general elections.

He also said that the “onslaught” of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi needed to be met by “all secular forces” and “one will have to wait for some time before the people realise what they are up against”.

Responding to the prospects of the UPA in 2014, the prime minister said: “I have every reason to believe that we may have done something wrong but we have done many good things and the people of India, generous and tolerant that they are, they will take into account the good work, the solid achievements of the UPA into account before they cast their votes,”

Seeking to end mounting speculation that he may resign after the public trashing by Gandhi of a ordinance that sought to shield convicted lawmakers from disqualification, saying “there was no question of resigning.”

Manmohan Singh said he will try to “find out the reasons” why Rahul Gandhi had protested in “that way”.

Asked whether Gandhi should have raised the issue of ordinance while he was away in the US, the prime minister said: “Well I am not the master of what people say. It has happened, and as I said when I go back I will try to find out the reasons why it had to be done that way and how do we handle it.”

To a question whether he was upset by the public denunciation of the ordinance passed by the cabinet last week, he said: “I think, I have been used to ups and downs and I don’t get easily upset.”

The prime minister was speaking to reporters on board his special aircraft while returning from his US visit.

Gandhi, at a press conference, had rubbished the ordinance, saying that it was “complete nonsense” and should be “torn up and thrown away”.

The remark had created a political storm, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saying that the prime minister should step down if he had any self-respect left.

The prime minister said the ordinance was discussed twice by the cabinet and also by the Congress core group, the party’s top decision-making body. 

The ordinance was seen to be a way of saving Congress leader Rasheed Masood and strong ally Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad ahead of their final court hearing in corruption cases. Both have been convicted. 

President Pranab Mukherjee had withheld his assent to the ordinance after the cabinet passed it Sep 24, a day before Manmohan Singh left for his five-day US visit. Mukherjee had summoned some union ministers over it.

Asked whether the government was planning to junk the controversial ordinance, the prime minister said: “We will see which way the wind blows.”

The cabinet is meeting on Wednesday to discuss the ordinance.

Asked whether any person, however, senior should undermine the decisions taken by the cabinet and core group, he said: “No, I don’t feel that way” as they were operating in a democracy and not in an authoritarian state. 

“I honestly feel that if there is an important point of view, any member of the Congress Party, any member of my cabinet is free to raise issues and require reconsideration of issues.

“I think that’s what a democracy is about… therefore my humble feeling is that when a point of view has been expressed, we must sit together and understand what is agitating the mind of the person who has raised these issue and that’s what we will do.” 

Gandhi had written to Manmohan Singh after his outburst, saying he has high respect for the prime minister but he wanted to convey his conviction about the ordinance to him. When the opposition tried to pit Gandhi against Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, at two rallies, had praised the prime minister.

He said Gandhi has asked for a meeting and he will discuss the matter with him.

Manmohan Singh said he would take his cabinet colleagues into confidence. 


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