iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Varghese k George, Hindustan Times
On Board PM's special aircraft, October 01, 2013
For the first time before the media, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred to Narendra Modi by name to suggest the Gujarat chief minister and the BJP’s prime ministerial face was a threat to secular politics in India. “I sincerely hope that all secular forces will combine to face the onslaught of people like Mr Narendra Modi. And I have every reason to believe that this will happen,” the PM said on Tuesday on his way back from the US. “You wait for sometime before people realise what they are up against.”

The PM’s response came to a specific question on whether Modi was a threat to secular politics.

The PM’s statement is indicative of an emerging thinking in the Congress that a 2004 model of alliance-building is what the party requires in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections due in 2014.

In 2004 — two years after the Gujarat riots — the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) formation was based on the common ground between regional parties and the Left that supporting the Congress was essential to stop the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

With Modi emerging as the BJP’s prime ministerial pick, the 2004 argument is back in circulation.

Singh hoped the “the generous and tolerant” people of India would forgive the government for “some wrongs we may have done”.

“I have every reason to believe that they will take into account the good work, the solid achievements of the UPA into account before they cast their votes,” he said to a question on whether there would be a UPA-III.

The PM counted improving the economy, controlling inflation and keeping the borders safe among the challenges he had to deal with in the next few months ahead of the general elections.

He said the priority in the next few months would be to ensure that the “several people-friendly measures such as the food security Act” get implemented effectively.