Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has advised his successor Narendra Modi to “establish contact” with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi if his government wants to improve its relations with the Congress party and seek its support on issues of national importance.
In his first interview since demitting office two years ago, Singh has told India Today magazine that he had told this to Modi when he met him before the Parliament session last year. The Prime Minister, he said, “listened a great deal, but did not reveal his mind”.
“I told him that this is not a task on which I can deliver. They (Sonia and Rahul) are the two most important leaders of our party, and unless and until the government establishes some rapport with Soniaji and Rahul, the Congress party cannot be taken for granted. You cannot have a situation where you foist cases like the National Herald and then expect…,” he said.
Singh said the government had not engaged in any serious discussion with the Congress party on important issues. He said, even on the pending Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation, the discussion happened when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley came to invite him and Sonia Gandhi to his daughter’s wedding. “But that is not the way for the government to handle the relationship with the principal opposition party,” he said.
He said the bitter relations between the government and the opposition was because the “ruling party doesn’t feel that it needs the Congress in managing the country”.
Singh also lamented Modi’s silence on the debates related to intolerance, beef ban or communal violence. “The public in our country expects the Prime Minister to take a lead in managing public opinion. But he has never spoken, whether it is on the beef problem or on what has happened in Muzaffarnagar and elsewhere… he has kept quiet.”
“…He is the Prime Minister of all the people of India and he must give every Indian the confidence that in him we have a Prime Minister who cares for our well being,” he said.
Singh said the Modi government was unable to take advantage of the opportunities for quick economic development, although the conditions were much more favourable than they were during UPA government.
He spoke at length on relations with Pakistan, and said the government’s handling of Pakistan was “inconsistent”. He said Modi’s impromptu Lahore trip in December was not “well thought out”.
“It is always good to maintain contacts with your neighbours but there is no need to create a euphoria. If you are not sure about the outcome of your initiative, I think you are wasting the levers of power that you have regarding Pakistan. So I don’t think that the PM thought it through,” he said.