Singh To Step Down

Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India, has announced that he will step down after 10 years in office after the May elections.

“In a few months’ time after the general elections, I will hand over the baton to a new prime minister,” he said in opening remarks at his first full press conference in three years.

Mr Singh, 81, said that the time was right for a fresh face to lead his party – paving the way for Rahul Gandhi to take the reins in the world’s biggest democracy.

In what was only his third news conference in a decade, Mr Singh said that Mr Gandhi, 43 – the heir to India’s Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty and the current vice president of the Congress Party – has the best credentials to become the next head of the Party and prime minister. Mr Singh was not expected to seek another term.

Yet his news conference comes at a time when the stock of his ruling Congress Party is low.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Narendra Modi, has the momentum ahead of the general election due – after trouncing Congress in recent state elections.

“I have ruled myself out as a prime ministerial candidate,” Mr Singh said. “Rahul Gandhi has outstanding credentials … I do hope the party will take the right decision at the appropriate time.”

Mr Singh said that it would be disastrous if Mr Modi became prime minister.

Mr Modi, chief minister of western Gujarat state for the past 11 years, has been accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in the state in 2002, which left more than 1,000 dead.

Mr Singh, a technocrat, was chosen to fill the prime minister’s seat in 2004 by Sonia Gandhi, the widow of assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

But he has been widely seen as a regent, keeping the seat warm until Rahul Gandhi was ready to take what some see as his birthright.


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