Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announces retirement, launches scathing attack on possible successor

Mr Singh threw his support behind Rahul Gandhi, claiming it would be 'disastrous' for the country if Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi became the next leader

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced he will retire after the country’s summer election after 10 years of leading the world’s biggest democracy.

In a rare press conference today - his first in three years and only third in his time as leader - the 81-year-old threw his support behind Rahul Gandhi as the person to succeed him if the Congress Party, to which both belong, win the election.

“In a few months' time, after the general election, I will hand the baton over to a new prime minister,” Mr Singh said.

“Rahul Gandhi has outstanding credentials to be nominated as the candidate and I hope our party will take that decision at an appropriate time.”

Mr Singh’s party is however lagging behind the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi in opinion polls.

In a scathing attack on Mr Modi, the man who could well replace him, Mr Singh said he "sincerely believed" that it would be "disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as the prime minister."

Mr Modi is campaigning on a platform to revive an economy growing at its slowest in a decade and end the red tape and corruption that have bedevilled the Congress-led coalition.

The Congress fared badly in elections in four large states towards the end of last year, largely due to voters' anger over corruption.

Mr Modi, chief minister of western Gujarat state for the past 11 years, is credited with turning his western state into an industrial haven. But critics question whether the Hindu nationalist chief can be a truly secular leader over India's many cultures.

Mr Modi has been accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in the state in 2002, which left more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead. Mr Modi denies wrongdoing and a Supreme Court investigation found no evidence to prosecute him.

Referencing the incident, Mr Singh turned a suggestion that he had been a weak prime minister into a further attack on Mr Modi.

“If by strong prime minister you mean that you preside over the mass massacre of innocent citizens in the streets,” Mr Singh said. “I do not believe that sort of strength this country needs. Least of all in its prime minister.”

The Congress Party is due to hold a top-level meeting on January 17 and is anticipated to announce its candidate - expected to be Mr Gandhi - soon afterwards.

Mr Gandhi, 43, belongs to the long established Nehru-Ghandi political dynasty. His grandmother, Indira Gandhi, and his father Rajiv Gandhi, both of whom were assassinated, have served as Prime Minister.

Mr Gandhi's great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru was the country's first Prime Minister, while his mother, Sonia Gandhi, an Italian native, is the current chairperson of the Congress Party.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat