Former prime minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday asserted that he did not use his office to enrich himself, his family or his friends.
“There are two constant themes of the BJP leadership. One, that the UPA was a very corrupt government. I want to assure you that we have been fighting corruption, we will continue to fight corruption and there will be no compromise with corruption. As far as I am concerned, I can say in all humility that I have not used my public office to enrich myself, to enrich my family or to enrich my friends. But still, the BJP government keeps on harping on the theme of corruption just because it wants to distract the attention of the people to non-issues,” he said.
Singh’s comments came against the backdrop of former TRAI chairman Pradip Baijal’s claims in his book that the former PM asked him to cooperate with the then telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran since non-cooperation could compromise his government.
Singh also rubbished the Narendra Modi government’s performance claims, saying that the NDA had merely repackaged UPA’s schemes. He also termed Modi’s pet project, Make in India, a “carbon copy” of the UPA’s new manufacturing policy, and accused the government of suppressing dissent and putting the institution of democracy under threat.
“The past is continuously being re-written to promote a highly biased and communal view of history. Dissent is being suppressed. The Congress party had strived hard to ensure that India flourishes as an open, pluralistic, liberal, secular democracy proud of her composite heritage. This very idea of India is now under systematic assault,” he said, addressing a convention organised by the Congress’s students wing, NSUI.
“We must understand how this assault is being mounted and then come up with our response,” he added.
Stating that the BJP constantly talks about policy paralysis during the UPA regime, Singh said, “This is also totally untrue. When we left office in 2014, in the past 10 years our economy grew at an average annual rate of 8.5 per cent. This is an all-time record. When we left office, we were the fastest growing economy in the world after China. We have nothing but to be proud of our achievements.”
He said the BJP government had to “manufacture and modify some statistical data to show that this last one year has not been that bad for the economy”.
“But their own people are of the view that the recovery that they talk about in the last one year is a very fragile recovery. The Chief Economic Advisor of the Ministry of Finance, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, they have both been of the view that the recovery is fragile and indeed if you look at the harsh realities, you will find that all is not well with the state of our economy under the BJP dispensation,” he said.
“Investment is not going up… Agricultural production is declining. Our farmers are in distress. Exports are declining… Throughout the country, there is an acute distress in rural areas,” Singh said.
Singh also said that the election setbacks had pumped “new life” into the Congress. “Our vice-president Rahul Gandhi is also very active and vocal, both in Parliament and outside Parliament. We must sustain the momentum,” he said.
Later in the evening, Singh had a 45-minute one-on-one meeting with Modi at the PM’s 7 RCR residence. Sources said it had been conveyed to Singh’s office on Tuesday that the PM would like to meet him over tea.
“The PM had on Tuesday called on the President and the vice-president. Coinciding with the completion of a year in office, he invited the former PM for a cup of tea,” a PMO official said.
The two discussed issues related to the economy and foreign policy, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, who spoke to Singh after the meeting, told The Indian Express.
Singh’s office also issued a statement saying, “They discussed the economic situation in the country and foreign policy issues.”