New Delhi(WEB TEAM): Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted his predecessor Manmohan Singh at the lavish drawing room of his 7-Race Course Road official residence, hours after the two exchanged barbs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former PM Manmohan Singh at 7 Race Course Road in New Delhi on Wednesday PTI
In a rare occasion to speak his mind, Singh on Wednesday morning used a pre-scheduled meeting of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) to mock at the at prime minister who, in turn, in an interview to the Press Trust of India had attacked the powerless PMO headed by Manmohan Singh during the UPA rule.
What transpired between could not be ascertained except for Modi’s tweet that it was a “great meeting.” Did Manmohan say sorry for the harsh words he used about the government that is not his style or did Modi apologise for pinning down Manmohan as a puppet when he said that the real power was wielded by the extra-constitutional authorities? It was a one-to-one meeting. Modi received his predecessor at the inner gate of 7-Race Course Bungalow, and accompanied him inside.
In a statement, Singh’s office said he met Modi at the latter’s “invitation” and “they discussed the economic situation in the country and foreign policy issues.” Congress sources also said Prime Minister Modi had invited Manmohan Singh to his residence and he had agreed. Before going he had informed the Congress leadership. Modi had sent a message on Tuesday morning, sources close to Singh told dna. He wanted Singh to visit Race Course over tea in the evening on Tuesday. But the timing didn’t fructify and the meeting was scheduled for Wednesday evening. Before going, Manmohan Singh had informed top Congress leadership about his meeting. Last year, shortly before taking oath Modi had called on Singh at his new Motilal Nehru Marg residence.
Sigh’s disclosure that they discussed foreign policy has considerable significance, in the wake of Modi’s visit to Bangladesh and preparations for his Pakistan visit next year to participate in the SAARC summit. Former Prime Minister during his 10-year tenure was keen to visit Islamabad and had even authored a 4-point formula alongwith former Pakistan dictator and president Pervez Musharraf to settle the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
But the agreement eluded signing of dotted lines, in the wake of lawyers agitation in Pakistan and then bombings in Mumbai.
Two months after a Delhi court summoned him in the coal scam case, former top telecom official Pradip Baijal recently accused Singh of permissiveness towards corruption, further blowing his ‘Mr Clean’ image. At the time of summons last March, finance minister Arun Jaitley had walked up to Singh’s seat in Rajya Sabha along with several ministerial colleagues and said, “Dr saheb, we are shell-shocked. We are very upset… We can do anything but not suspect your moral integrity. The government doesn’t have any role in this.”
During the last Budget session too, Singh didn’t choose the floor of Rajya Sabha to defend himself, even though his Congress colleagues created a hue and cry.
He broke his silence choosing convention of Congress party’s student wing, claiming he didn’t enrich himself, family or friends in a war of bitter words. “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 my friends. And, still the BJP government keeps on harping on this theme of corruption because it wants to distract the attention of the people to non-issues,” he asserted. His defence and claim of not being personally corrupt seemed linked to allegations by Baijal that the then PM had warned him of harm if he did not cooperate on 2G telecom licences. Baijal, and the CBI under Manmohan Singh had even wanted him to “implicate” Arun Shourie and Ratan Tata in the case.
But the BJP didn’t buy Singh’s defence. Party president Amit Shah immediately at a press conference in Surat unleashed a counter attack on Singh. “I believe that a prime minister’s responsibility is not limited to not doing corruption himself but to also ensure that others are not allowed to do corruption. He has to root out corruption from the system. Under Singh’s rule, scams of Rs 12 lakh crore occurred and Congress cannot run away from its responsibility,” said Shah.
Former prime minister mounted a scathing attack on the government for destroying institutions of democracy and dismantling the entire edifice of the welfare state in the guise of promoting faster economic growth. He hailed the Congress for rightly fulfilling its obligation to give “correct” information to people about what was wrong with the BJP government and the “false talk” about the weaknesses of the UPA government.
Dr Manmohan Singh asserted that the Modi government was doing nothing but repackaging and marketing many of his UPA government’s programmes as own initiatives. “What the BJP had opposed when we were in power are now being sold as its contribution,” he said, describing Modi’s “Make in India” programme as a “carbon copy” of the UPA’s initiative. “Look at the issue of Make in India…. This is a carbon copy of a programme that our government had chalked out and the New Manufacturing Policy. We had pledged that we will raise the share of manufacturing in GDP.