Manmohan Singh backs Rahul Gandhi for successor as India PM - and says rival Narendra Modi would be 'disastrous'

 

Bangalore

India's prime minister used his first press conference for three years to announce something everyone suspected - that he will stand down after the next election whether his party wins or not. He also used the occasion to launch a surprisingly barbed attack on the main opposition candidate, saying he would be disastrous for the country.

During an hour long event that highlighted how India's preparations for a general election are becoming increasingly bitter, Manmohan Singh announced that he will not seek a third term as premier.

The 81-year-old, who has headed a Congress party-led coalition for almost ten years, said he believed Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, should become the next prime minister. By contrast, he said Narendra Modi, candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, would not be a good leader for India.

"Without discussing the merits of Modi, it would be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as the next prime minister," said Mr Singh, who was asked about claims from the opposition that he had been a weak prime minister.

He added: "If by a strong prime minister they mean you preside over the massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmadabad, if that is the measure of strength, I do not believe that is the sort of strength this country needs."

Mr Singh, who is usually credited - perhaps too much so - for introducing a series of liberalising reforms which helped India's growth after 1991, became prime minister in 2004. He did so after the Congress party secured a surprise victory and Sonia Gandhi, head of the party and the widow of assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, declined to become premier.

His first term received widespread recognition for continuing reforms as well as introducing a series of bills designed to help India's poorest. The Congress, with Mr Singh as the candidate, was reelected in 2009.

But his second term has been widely condemned, not only by those who have urged him to enact more reforms to help the faltering economy, but by those angered by the repeated revelations of public corruption. Many of the allegations of corruption have been levelled at the government.

In recent weeks and months, Congress has been pushed onto the back foot by a wave of enthusiasm and interest that Mr Modi and the BJP have been able to generate, despite repeated claims over his failure to prevent the massacre of Muslims in the state of Gujarat in 2002. In a series of recent state elections, seen a a indicator as to how people might vote in the general election that must be held by the spring, the BJP beat the Congress in all but one of the contests.

On Friday, the BJP denounced Mr Singh's comments, made during what was just his third press conference in three years.

"[Manmohan Singh] brought agony and misery to the country and its people because of his shameful governance," Ravi Shankar Prasad, a senior BJP leader, told reporters, according to the Associated Press. "You are nobody to call [Mr Modi] a disaster."

As the main parties continue to campaign across the country, both the Congress and BJP are being forced to reassess the political landscape after the emergence of the Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, party. (AAP)

The grass-roots, anti-corruption party became second in a recent election in Delhi and managed to take power in the nation's capital with support from other parties. Riding on the anti-incumbency wave that Mr Modi has also utilised, the party and its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, have since announced plans to contest at least 300 of around 540 seats in the general election.

The party believes is it at the front of a revolution and can replicate its success nationally. "It's seems there is a transformation," said party spokeswoman Shazia Ilmi.

Not everyone is convinced the party has the recognition it does in Delhi. However, the party could be a spanner in the works.

"I can't see AAP seriously contesting 300 seats or having an impact across India," said analyst and journalist Ashok Malik.

"However, its footprint does overlap with an urban geography that was politically crucial for the Congress in 2009 and that Modi is banking on in 2014. If AAP can take away substantial votes in even 20-30 urban constituencies, without necessarily winning all of these, it could damage the BJP."

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Sport
Torquay United mascot Gilbert the Gull
football
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker