Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has claimed that some BJP leaders had wished him dead and went to the extent of organising havans to ensure his demise.
In an interview to the India Today newsmagazine, the PM said, “They didn’t even believe I would last as the Prime Minister and some leaders even did havans that I should die on a certain day. But I have faith in the higher force. I believe it was my destiny to be PM. I have the courage of conviction.”
The interview was given while he was returning from the G-8 summit in Germany in June with the understanding it would be published only when the 123 Agreement with the US is signed. The edition carrying the interview was released on a day that saw a furore in Parliament over remarks made by NDA convenor George Fernandes against him. Fernandes said the PM had “betrayed” the nation by his “continuous bluff” and if it was China, they would have shot him in the head. <b1>
BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitely rubbished the PM’s claim, saying it had taken the PM three long years to discover the “non-existent havans” organised against him. “The BJP treats the PM as a political opponent and not an enemy. May he live long and see after his tenure comes to an end how India is governed much better by others after him.” Jaitley also said the PM must acknowledge that the BJP also had a role in shaping his destiny. “Had we not vehemently opposed the first choice of the Congress, Dr Manmohan Singh as the second preference would have never made it to office.”
Backing the PM, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: “Our PM is not given to exaggeration or hyperbole; indeed, he practices understatement. We should not be surprised since it took the BJP-NDA more than 18 months to digest their departure from power in May 2004 and their fall from the dreamland of India Shining.”
Though the NDA was embarrassed by Fernandes’ remark, the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj refused to condemn it. She said he had spoken out of “anguish”. Fernandes was targeted by the treasury benches in both Houses of Parliament for his controversial statement against the PM
An incensed Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi led the tirade against Fernandes in the Lok Sabha. He alleged that the former defence minister’s statement was an “incitement to terrorists” against the head of the government and demanded his arrest. He also demanded an apology or its withdrawal by Fernandes.
Union ministers, including P Chidambaram, Saifuddin Soz, BK Handique and Jaipal Reddy, were immediately on their feet demanding an apology from Fernandes. As Fernandes sat watching the agitated ruling alliance members, Dasmunsi fired another salvo: “Either he is mentally sound or not. If he is not then we have nothing to say, if he is then the government condemns the statement. The leader of the opposition should also condemn the statement,” he said pointing towards LK Advani.