Third Front could affect poll outcome, concedes PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday conceded that the decision of some Congress allies to form a separate front could affect the electoral outcome and said the Left parties and the Third Front were “unwittingly” helping the BJP.

“I would like the Samajwadi Party and Lok Janshakti Party to work together (with Congress). This could affect the electoral outcome to some extent,” he told journalists of the Indian Women’s Press Corps at an interaction in New Delhi.

He said he sincerely thought that the Left parties and Third Front would not be in a position to form a Government.

“Unwittingly the Left Parties and the Third Front are strengthening the BJP”, Singh said in his first comments commenting on the recent realignments that have taken place on the political horizon.

Congress allies RJD, LJP and SP have formed a front and are contesting against Congress in 134 constituencies in UP, Bihar and Jharkhand. Erstwhile allies Left parties have teamed up with a number of regional parties to form the Third Front on an anti-Congress, anti-BJP platform.

Also on Friday, the PM candidly accepted that he would have resigned if the Indo-US civil nuclear deal had not gone through. “I was quite clear that if the nuclear deal had not gone through, I would have resigned,” Singh said.

The prime minister’s remarks confirmed intense speculation during the tense political crisis in the middle of last year when the nuke deal met with stiff opposition from Left parties, the UPA’s outside supporters, that he may be thinking of quitting.

“It is a question of India’s honour. To save India’s honour, I staked my reputation,” Singh said in an apparent reference to his commitment to see that the nuke deal reaches a fruition.

Advani under attack

In a stinging attack on BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani and his party, Singh said “the country has to ask itself this question whether we should have a government which fans communal passions, which has once again raised old issues like Art 370, common civil code, Ram Mandir controversy at a time when India is faced with the threat of terror and we should have a decisive government”.

He said one who tries to divide people is ill-qualified to perform this task of dealing with economic crisis, terrorism and poverty.

Stepping up his attack on Advani, he said he was present during the demolition of Babri Masjid and if he was such a decisive leader he would have staked all his to prevent that carnage.

“You look at his record as Home Minister. The BJP election manisfesto said that their government will present a white paper on ISI in Parliament. But Advani completely forgot about it. His record as Home Minister you compare with our record,” he said.

He said the BJP government sent its foreign minister to negotiate with the Taliban government during the Indian Airlines plane hijack to Kandahar. “This is not enough. Three dreaded terrorists one of whom later became the founder of the Jaish-e-Mohammed was gifted by the government from Indian jails,” he said.

Citing the Gujarat riots, the Prime Minister said, “officially 1180 people were killed in the carnage” and asked how BJP can justify that and brand Narendra Modi as the most succesful chief minister.

Admitting that he cannot match Advani in public speaking, he said, “the proof of the pudding is in eating. We need a prime minister who is strong. Who can take decisions. Speaking loudly doesn’t make you a strong Prime Minister.

“I am not used to abusive language. That is against the Indian culture,” he added.

On Advani’s frequent taunt about his not contesting Lok Sabha elections, Singh said, “there have been prime ministers who have been from Rajya Sabha. Advani should amend the constitution if he wants to ensure that.”

He pointed out that Indira Gandhi was a member of Rajya Sabha when she became Prime Minister for the first time and so were Deve Gowda and I K Gujral. On BJP’s demand of bringing black money from banks abroad, he said, “it is the bankruptcy of the BJP’s economic policy”.

Asserting that the Congress party needed another 10 years to achieve its goal of eliminating poverty, he said, the Congress had tried to ensure that the fruits of riches reach the poor.

Conceding that managing a coalition government was difficult, he said, “though there had been allegations of corruption against some ministers, nothing ocncrete had emerged”.

Tytler issue

Meanwhile, a day after Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were dropped as candidates for Lok Sabha polls by Congress, Manmohan Singh said on Friday that he was neither informed nor consulted over CBI’s clean chit given to Tytler in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

“I was not informed, not consulted” over CBI clean chit to Jagdish Tytler, Singh said.

“Congress decision to cancel tickets to Tytler and Kumar shows party’s sensitivity to Sikh sentiments,” he said, adding “better late than never”.

The action against Tytler came with the Congress fearing a Sikh backlash in the elections as the issue came under spotight with a Sikh journalist lobbing a shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram at a press conference on Tuesday.

He was protesting the clean chit by CBI to Tytler in the riots cases.