M A I N   N E W S

UPA will return to power: PM
* Congress is the best option for the country
* No patriotic Indian will ask to annul N-deal
* Advani alerting people to divert black money
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalalabad (Ferozepore), May 2
The Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh is confident of the Congress-led UPA government returning to power at the centre after declaration of Lok Sabha results on May 16.

“I am pretty confident that when the results are announced, we will form the government. Politics is the art of the possible. Who do we reach out to and who do we not reach is an issue that we can talk about only when the election results are known,” he said at a select media interaction at a makeshift media centre here this afternoon.

In a freewheeling session, Dr Manmohan Singh answered a variety of questions, including chances of Congress-led UPA returning to power, its possible tie-up with the Left again, future of the nuclear treaty, relations with Pakistan, bringing back black money stashed in Swiss banks and other tax havens, harassment of minorities like Sikhs and Hindus by Taliban in Pakistan, schemes to rid Punjab farmers of their debt traps and for handling serious problems like drug addiction, female foeticide and unemployment besides agriculture.

Beaming with confidence on his first visit to the state for campaigning, the Prime Minister said that Congress is the best option for the country. “We have experience of running single party as well as coalition governments. We have just completed a full term of a coalition government.”

As far as the numbers game is concerned, he says, let the election results be out. “It is why I say politics is the art of the possible”. When asked whether Congress can shake hands with certain regional parties like those of Nitish Kumar and Jayalalithaa, he said “we will cross the bridge as and when we come to it.”

“We have worked with the Left before. For almost four years they were our partners and I have enjoyed working with them. I still have many friends in the Left. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is a very good friend of mine,” he said but insisted at the same time that there is no possibility of the country going back on its 123 nuclear treaty with the US.

“It has been one of my government’s major achievements. It has not only ended the country’s 40-year nuclear isolation but has put it back on the track of development by using nuclear power. Results of this treaty will start showing up soon. There are long procedures. We had to get back to many countries and institutions. We had been facing shortage of Uranium. Kazakhstan has now offered us Uranium,” he said , reiterating that there is no question of annulment of the deal.

“That situation will not arise. But no patriotic Indian would suggest that a deal that required so much hard work, ended India’s nuclear isolation at tremendous cost when the chips were down ( be done away with). I don't think any serious-minded Indian party would ask that we should annul the deal,” he added.

The PM admitted that when the Congress-led UPA government took over, Indo-Pak relations had started showing up; but the current situation, he said, was indeed unpleasant.

“It was avoidable if Pakistan had a strong purposeful government. I have always believed a strong, peaceful and moderate Pakistan is in India's interest. We worked very hard on that and in fact I had almost an agreement with General Musharraf , a non-territorial solution to all problems. But then General Musharraf got into many difficulties with the Chief Justice and other fronts and therefore the whole process came to a halt. I still believe we have no ill will towards Pakistan.

“Our only concern is Pakistan should cooperate with us by not allowing its territory to be used for acts of terror. We wish the government well. I often say we can choose our friends but not our neighbours,” he added. Talking about black money stashed in Swiss Banks, Singh said that LK Advani had written to him in April last year about money lying in some German bank.

“We immediately got in touch with our counterparts. But Advani does not know how much is the money. All he is trying to do is propaganda without realizing that by doing so he had been alerting those who have black money in tax havens abroad to shift them before the government can lay its hands upon them.”

When asked how he felt when Sonia Gandhi told him that he would be India’s next Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh revealed that he tried to resist by arguing that she herself was the best person to unify the party.

“I told her I had my limitations; that I have no mass following, but she said no, she had looked around and found no one else than me. She told me that I would have to undertake the responsibility and the faith she gave me added to the burden of the office I was going to assume,” Prime Minister said.

Talking about possible transfer of power or responsibility midway in the second term, Dr Manmohan Singh said that Rahul Gandhi has all the qualities a good PM should have. “ I certainly at some stage would like the seat of power to be with people much younger than I am,” the Prime Minister quipped.



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