Virtually ruling himself out of the race for the top job in the country after the next elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said he would be “very happy to work for the Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi”.
Speaking to reporters on board the special aircraft flying him home after the G-20 summit in Russia, Singh said: “I have always maintained that Rahul Gandhi would be an ideal choice for the Prime Minister’s position after the 2014 election.”
Asked if he believed he had responded adequately to the questions that the Opposition had posed about him and his government, Singh said: “I was not allowed to read the statement on coal in Parliament but it is a public document, so I am an open book”.
He said he had no desire to hide anything from Parliament, “whether it is the coal matter or other matters...
I have been as forthright as I can be.”
While he maintained that no decision had been taken on a one-on-one meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting later this month, the tenor of the Prime Minister’s remarks suggested that the talks would take place.
“Under normal conditions I would be happy to meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has said the right things about how relations between the two countries should evolve. But there are certain harsh realities on the ground.”
“If terror acts do not stop; if those who voice terrorist thoughts move about freely; if there is no significant progress in bringing the culprits of the Mumbai massacre to book—that I have to factor in before arriving at a final decision.”
Asked if the Congress would partner with the Trinamool Congress in the Lok Sabha elections, Singh said he did not rule it out. He pointed out that Mamata Banerjee had been part of the Congress party at one time. “As the leader of the Trinamool also, we were very happy to have her in our government,” he said. He stressed the point that Banerjee had a secular outlook and