Taking criticism of both the opposition and allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in his stride, a confident Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said it was par for the course especially in poll season. He also asserted that secular forces would come together to form a stable government.
Stating that he did not take a "tragic" view of the ongoing tensions and the war of words that had broken out with the opposition, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the prime minister made light of the sharp exchanges.
"Nok jhonk to hoti rahti hai (Potshots happen)," the prime minister told Times Now television in response to a question on relations between the ruling Congress and the opposition.
"When we form a government, we will be able to establish a relation of trust with principal opposition parties," he added. But the "secular communal divide" was important in the country, according to Manmohan Singh. "I do not see this country has any future except by staying with secular values."
He also tried to brush off criticism of coalition partners on the eve of the elections, maintaining it should not be taken seriously.
"We are a coalition government. This coalition came into existence after the last elections in 2004. In a coalition if one colleague criticises another on the eve of the elections, I do not think we should take a tragic view of this," said Manmohan Singh.
He was responding specifically to allegations by his cabinet colleagues, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and Lok Janshakti Party's Ram Vilas Paswan, that along with the BJP, the Congress was also responsible for the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
The prime minister also pointed out that judicial reform would be a "priority" if the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government comes to power.
"Well, I think the legal processes in our country are slow moving. I have no control over them," the prime minister said in response to the legal delays in convicting those responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
"Judicial reforms will be our priority concern".
Two days after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's contentious remarks about the LTTE chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran being a "friend", Manmohan Singh said, "The LTTE is a terrorist organisation. Prabhakran is a proclaimed offender. That position has not changed."
"Tamil Nadu chief minister has clarified his position. The Congress party spokesperson (Kapil Sibal) has explained (the) Congress position."
Manmohan Singh was reacting to the DMK chief's controversial remarks in a television interview in which he described Prabhakaran as a "good friend". Karunanidhi subsequently did a U turn on Monday saying the LTTE was indeed a terrorist outfit and that his remarks were taken out of context.
Sibal Monday rejected Karunanidhi's comments as his "personal opinion" and said the Congress views Prabhakaran as a terrorist and the LTTE as an extremist outfit.