On Board Air India One, Oct 24: Exuding confidence that the Congress would “surprise” everyone and win the 2014 general elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday said he felt the BJP, despite its aggressive election campaign, would “peak early” and the “slow and steady” Congress would win the race.
In an affable mood after ending a two-nation tour to Russia and China, he expressed readiness to be questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the coal blocks case, saying he was “not above the law”.
The prime minister also hit out at Pakistan for the repeated ceasefire violations, saying he was “disappointed” as they were taking place despite an agreement to maintain peace at the border during his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York last month.
The prime minister, answering questions on a range of subjects while on way back from his tour, said the allegations of scams against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government relate only to its first term and not to UPA-II.
In the 2009 general election, the Congress won “hands down”, he said, adding: “I am sure when the results of 2014 come out, the country will once again be surprised.”
The prime minister also said that though the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may be perceived to be running ahead of the Congress with an aggressive election campaign but the “slow and steady” would win the race.
“I don’t share the view that the Congress party is not active enough. I think the Congress party is quite active. I think the BJP may have started early, but I think it will also peak early. And slow and steady (wins the race) I think is the thing which sometimes also works in public life as well.”
To a question on whether the scams and alleged wrongdoings, like the coal allocation issue, would “cast a shadow on his prime ministership”, he said: “That is for history to judge.”
“I am doing my duty and will continue to do my duty. What impact my 10 years of prime ministership will have is for historians to judge,” he added.
The prime minister who held the coal portfolio during the first United Progressive Alliance government in 2006 said he was “not above the law of the land”.
“If there is anything that the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) or, for that matter, anybody wants to ask, I have nothing to hide….”
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been demanding that the prime minister be called for questioning by the CBI.
Asked whether he thought the Supreme Court with its many judgments was becoming “over active” and whether he thinks it to be a reason for the government’s policy paralysis, the prime minister declined to comment.
To a question on Telangana and the disturbance over the division of Andhra Pradesh, the prime minister said a Group of Ministers was looking into the issue, and he was “sure they will come out with a viable solution to this very difficult and complicated problem”.
On the spike in ceasefire violations on the Line of Control, he said: “I am disappointed.”
He said after his meeting with Nawaz Sharif, “there was agreement on both sides that peace and tranquillity must be maintained on the Line of Control and the International Border. And this has not happened, it has come to me as a big disappointment.”
“I sincerely hope that at this late hour Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will recognise that this is a development which is not good for either of the two countries.”
The prime minister had insisted on meeting Nawaz Sharif despite the Bharatiya Janata Party’s demand that he call it off due to repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan that had resulted in the beheading of a soldier in January and the killing of five Indian soldiers in August.
Asked what he thought about Rahul Gandhi saying he could be killed too like his grandmother Indira Gandhi and his father Rajiv Gandhi — both prime ministers, the prime minister said in a reference to the BJP: “Well, I and all sane persons should be worried about the politics of hate which is now sweeping the country.”
“As regards the threat to the life of Rahul Gandhi, the government will take all possible precautions that this threat does not materialise,” he said.