Singh returns BJP fire

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  • Published 18.10.07

New Delhi, Oct. 18: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he would not resign and questioned the BJP’s right to demand it in the first place.

“The BJP, of all the parties, is least qualified to talk about the moral right to govern,” he said on arrival from Africa.

The party had added grist to the rumour doing the rounds over the past two days that Singh could offer to quit after his return because of the go-slow on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

It had questioned his “legitimacy” to continue after “buckling” under Left pressure and suggested that he should resign on moral grounds.

But the Prime Minister hit back, saying neither Atal Bihari Vajpayee nor L.K. Advani had resigned after the Kargil infiltration, the “collapse” of the Indo-Pak Agra summit and the Gujarat “holocaust”.

“Look at the holocaust that took place…. Mr L.K. Advani was the home minister and he gave certificates to the Gujarat government,” he said.

“We all know why the war in Kargil took place. The infiltrators were coming into our territory and the government in New Delhi was sleeping.”

Singh, who had yesterday raised hopes that the deal was alive, repeated the line today. It was a coalition and there were difficulties, he said, but “I have not given up hope”.

It was for the Left to realise “the deal is not bad”, the Prime Minister added. Problems at home would have to be resolved first and other steps would follow, he said.

Congress sources said Singh’s statements on the deal — suggesting that while the government had not given up, its first goal would be to convince the Left — had set the tone from their side for the October 22 UPA-Left meeting. Spokesperson Veerappa Moily said the deal was “very much alive” and not on “oxygen”.

Singh took a gentle swipe at UPA leaders, especially Lalu Prasad and M. Karunanidhi, who are reported to have pushed for choosing the government over the deal. All allies were part of the cabinet decision endorsing the deal, he said.

Asked if the “setback” had hurt his image and work, he said: “When something doesn’t work out the way you plan, it does have an effect.”

In Mumbai, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat restated the opposition to the deal but said as long as the UPA stuck to the common minimum programme, the Left would support the government.

US ambassador David Mulford today met foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon.