NEW DELHI, Jan 3 � Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today declared that he would bow out of office after the Lok Sabha elections and strongly backed Rahul Gandhi for the job while warning that Narendra Modi would be �disastrous� for the country, reports PTI.
�I will hand over the baton to a new Prime Minister,� Singh said in an opening statement at a rare press conference, making it clear that he would no longer be in the running for the job when he completes his 10-year tenure in May after the Lok Sabha polls.
A number of questions at the 75-minute press conference here pertained to his record in office which he deflected by repeatedly saying that it was his belief that history would be kinder to him than the contemporary media or the opposition.
But a question on his being perceived as a �weak� Prime Minister brought forth an uncharacteristically strong attack on Modi when he accused him of �presiding� over the �massacre� of innocent people during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
�If by strong PM you mean that you preside over mass massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmedabad, if that is the measure of strength, I do not believe that kind of strength this country needs, least of all in its Prime Minister,� he said.
At another point while answering a question on a potential contest between Rahul and Modi, Singh said, �I sincerely believe that it will be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.� He ridiculed Modi�s campaign for a �Congress-free� India saying that was not going to materialise.
The press conference, only the third held by Singh in nearly 10 years in office, covered a wide range of subjects, mostly political, some pertaining to the state of the economy and a few on foreign policy.
Voicing the hope that his successor would be from UPA, the Prime Minister endorsed Rahul by stating that the Congress vice president �has outstanding credentials to be the PM candidate�.
Singh put up a weak defence of the government�s record on corruption by arguing that coal scam and 2G spectrum licences allegations pertained to his first tenure (2004-09) after which people had voted back UPA to power in 2009. �They (voters) do not seem to have paid heed to all charges of corruption,� he contended, ignoring the fact that these scams had been unearthed after 2009 elections.
He, however, conceded that there had been irregularities in these allocations. But the dimensions of these irregularities had been overstated by the media, CAG and other entities.