Manmohan's 'farewell' conference draws flak and praise

NEW DELHI - Rival politicians slammed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after he gave a "farewell" press conference yesterday, but some analysts gave credit to the economist-turned-politician whose 10 years in power have been undermined by a combination of poor economic growth and scandals in his second term.

Listing both the highs and lows of his decade in power, Dr Singh admitted inflation woes and soaring prices remained challenges for the country.

But he maintained that India's civilian nuclear deal with the United States led it out of nuclear isolation and reminded all about India's high growth rates during his first term.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called the press conference a farce.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley highlighted the Prime Minister's failures, saying: "He admits his government failed to curb corruption, failed to check unemployment and failed to contain inflation."

Dr Singh also announced that he was stepping down after elections due by May, effectively paving the way for the Congress party's No. 2 Rahul Gandhi to contest as the party's candidate for the prime minister's post.

Writing in an op-ed for NDTV.com, former editor of The Hindu Siddharth Varadarajan said: "At what was being seen as his valedictory press conference on Friday, Manmohan Singh not only said the wrong things on key issues but failed to articulate a single positive reason why people should vote for the Congress when elections are held a few months from now."

But for every criticism levelled at Dr Singh by political parties, there were praises for the man whom many see as the architect of India's economic reforms when he was finance minister.

"We have had the unique privilege and honour to have served with such a remarkable man and a gentle soul - and of course an economic genius - through very difficult times. We still have the last lap to run. The victory lap is yet to be run," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told reporters on Friday.

Said Dr N. Bhaskara Rao, chairman of the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies: "There are some significant things in 9 1/2 years, like right to food and education, which are achievements."

Mr Shashi Tharoor, former diplomat and now a Member of Parliament for the Congress, wrote to the BBC to mark Dr Singh's 80th birthday in September 2012, saying: "This is the same man who did more than anyone to earn his country a worldwide reputation as the world's next big economic success story. Manmohan Singh deserves better."


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