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Manmohan Singh targets Modi: Hugging, swings, eating biryani do not improve ties

As he hit out at the BJP, Singh addressed a range of issues -- the ruling party's attacks on Nehru, the economy, and how, as PM, he let his work speak for himself "rather than speaking myself".

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the people of Punjab via a video link, ahead of the Assembly polls. (PTI Photo)

Three days before Punjab votes, former PM Manmohan Singh, while seeking votes for the Congress party, targeted PM Narendra Modi over his foreign policy, saying “I hope leaders of the ruling party have understood by now that relations do not improve by hugging politicians, or moving on swings or turning up to eat biryani without invitation” — the last two being references to the time Modi spent with China’s Xi Jinping and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif.

He also said when he was Prime Minister, he let his “work speak” for him “rather than speaking for myself”.

In a video message in Punjabi, Singh, who did not name Modi, said the government at the Centre was trying to “malign Punjab and Punjabis”. Cautioning people against the BJP’s “divisive policies”, he said the Centre tried to “bring disrepute to Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and people of the state in the name of PM security. This did not stick. Similarly, during the farmers’ agitation, they tried to malign Punjab and Punjabis. What all was not said about Punjabis, who are saluted the world over for their valour and patriotism. Being a true Indian, after having been born in Punjab, I feel sad at what is happening now”.

Listing development, agriculture and unemployment as “challenges” faced by Punjab, he said the Congress “alone can provide a solution” to these issues.

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“The current rulers, instead of making amends by accepting their mistakes, even after seven-and-a-half years of rule, are out to blame the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, for the problems of the people. One cannot blame the country and its history to cover up one’s own mistakes. Having worked as PM for 10 years, I preferred to let my work speak for me rather than speaking for myself. We did not divide the country for political benefits. We did not try to cover the truth. And did not do anything to demean the dignity of the PM’s post. Despite facing problems, we brought glory to the country and the countrymen at the international level. I am glad that the propaganda of the BJP and its B and C teams against me has been uncovered and the country remembers the good work we did from 2004 to 2014.”

On the economy, Singh said: “The government does not understand economics. Because of their wrong economic policies, unemployment is at its peak, farmers and entrepreneurs, women, and students are all facing problems. The annadata (farmers) are finding it difficult to make ends meet. The rich are becoming richer and the poor poorer. But the government is fudging data to show that all is well. Iss sarkar ki neeyat aur neeti, dono mein khot hai (This government’s intention and policies are flawed). Its policies are driven by self-interest and intent by hatred. It is dividing people on the lines of caste, creed and region. Their fake nationalism… is as hollow as it is dangerous… Constitutional institutions are being weakened.”

Slamming the government’s foreign policy, Singh said: “The Chinese have been infiltrating our land for the past one year, but this is being covered up. Old allies are drifting away from us.”

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Hitting back at Singh’s remarks, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: “A Prime Minister who is most remembered for having brought India to a Fragile Five economy… a Prime Minister who could not control inflation 22 months continuously, a Prime Minister who saw capital fly away from this country… How come this Prime Minister today, all of a sudden, remembers the Indian economy? Is it only for Punjab elections?” .

Asked about Singh’s statement, Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said it was “purely a political message” and not a policy one. “As regards China, the facts of the matter are clear, I don’t need to reiterate them. We have been discussing the processes of the conversation with China and how the situation has arisen,” he said.

First published on: 17-02-2022 at 02:33:30 pm
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