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Manmohan Singh says Narendra Modi must be taken seriously

Indian ruling party leader says Delhi election results won’t impact next year’s general elections

Gulf News

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday acknowledged the threat his Congress party faces from Narendra Modi, saying that the Gujarat chief minister should be taken seriously.

Singh virtually distanced himself from some of his senior ministerial colleagues who had tried to play down the challenge posed by Modi ever since he was named prime ministerial candidate by the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“As an organised political party, we cannot underestimate the power of the opposition to unsettle the ship of the state,” Singh said while interacting with the select gathering at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here on Friday.

Asked about the Modi challenge, Singh said: “I am one of those who take our opponents very seriously. There is no room for complacency,” Singh said.

Singh’s remarks came within two days of end of polling for five state legislative assemblies on Wednesday. Exit poll survey results have predicted victory of the BJP in four of the five states.

While the BJP is expected to retain power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the party may wrest control from the Congress party in Rajasthan and Delhi. Even in Mizoram, the Congress party is shown as trailing behind the coalition of regional parties.

Modi’s anointment as the prime ministerial candidate for next year’s general elections is believed to be one of the major reasons for India’s ruling party’s precarious condition just five months ahead of the crucial general elections.

Singh sought to convince the audience, saying the outcome of the state polls would not have any impact on the parliamentary elections.

“Congress [party] is going to the polls with a spirit of self confidence. We should not confuse that with the outcome of assembly results,” Singh said.

Both Singh and the Congress party are hopeful that the current round of assembly elections, results of which would be declared on Sunday, would have no cascading impact and that some populist projects like the food security bill and trends that Indian economy may be coming out of recession, would get it the third straight term in office.

“India is moving out of the era of slow growth … despite the burden of past policy mistakes, our economy is on the path of growth. Public anger once in a while spills onto the streets and in media. If one steps back and looks at the bigger picture, our democratic principles have responded well,” the Indian premier said.

Singh’s warning not to take Modi lightly is at variance with finance minister P. Chidambaram, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and law minister Kapil Sibal who at different times have tried to put up brave fronts saying Modi posed no challenge to the Congress party.