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‘Advani started slanging match, shouldn’t crib’

After days of a bitter war of words with BJP prime ministerial candidate LK Advani, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday said he does not want to “prolong this match”. “Whatever I have to say I have said it already. I don’t want to prolong this match and dialogue,” Singh said when asked to comment on the recent verbal duel with Advani. See special

india Updated: Apr 20, 2009 00:42 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 76, on Sunday accused the BJP’s aspirant for his position, Lal Krishna Advani, 81, of starting the slanging match between them. In an interview to a television channel, he insisted he did not regret any of the remarks he made last Tuesday about Advani.

Later, addressing a huge rally at Guwahati and a press conference thereafter, he responded to other recent controversies, including Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad’s charge that the Congress was to blame for the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

A Rajya Sabha member from Assam since 1991, and registered as a voter in Guwahati, Prime Minister Singh also confirmed he would be returning to the city on April 30 to cast his vote.

“He has no business to complain,” said Singh, referring to Advani in an interview to NDTV. “He has been mudslinging for the last five years against me, calling me a nikamma (useless) prime minister, saying I’m subservient to Sonia Gandhi, that I’m the weakest prime minister. I did not reply, but now as the Congress party has declared me as their prime ministerial candidate, I owe it to the country to reply.”

Singh had responded by attacking Advani on a number of counts, including his role as union home minister after the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to Kandahar in December 1999 when he succumbed to the hijackers’ demands, or during the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in December 1992 when, despite being present at the spot, Advani failed to stop the Hindu zealots.

At the press conference, the prime minister maintained that the Congress’s sole culpability in the Babri Masjid demolition was to have trusted the then BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Kalyan Singh, who had sworn in an affidavit to protect the structure. Kalyan Singh, having quit the BJP, is currently an ally of Lalu Prasad’s partner, Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Asked about post poll alignments and whether the Congress could team up with the Left again, he said: “I’m not an astrologer.”

Earlier in his speech Singh touched upon a range of subjects, from the achievements of the UPA government to the threat posed by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). “We want the ULFA to shun violence and come forward for talks,” he said. “Our doors are always open.”

First Published: Apr 19, 2009 15:38 IST