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PM halts Advani tirade

Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh addressing the media before an election campaign at Amingaon in Guwahati on Sunday. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is also seen. (EP)
Published on 20 Apr. 2009 1:05 AM IST
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After over a week’s stinging tirade against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday declared a ceasefire stating that he did not wish to “continue the match” but maintained he had no regrets over his utterances. “I don’t want to prolong the match and the dialogue. Whatever I had to say I have said already,” Manmohan Singh told reporters. The prime minister had retaliated with sharp criticism after Advani repeatedly called him a “weak prime minister”. However, asked separately about his attack on Advani in an interview with NDTV, the prime minister said: “No. I don’t regret anything because Mr. Advani has been mudslinging for the last five years against me. He has been saying I am a nikamma PM, subservient to Sonia Gandhi that I am the weakest PM.” “These are charges which have hurt me but I have never said anything. Mr. Advani has no business to complain. He started it, he’s been at it for last five years and it’s only now that I have replied to that sort of mudslinging,” Manmohan Singh reiterated. Manmohan Singh had questioned his opponent’s record in the government and stated that the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 right under Advani’s nose and that he was the home minister when the BJP-led government freed terrorists in return for release of hostages aboard a hijacked Indian plane in Afghanistan in 1999. Referring to the Nov 26 attacks, he said: “During the Mumbai terror attacks our government handled the situation very firmly. But did the opposition government at the centre (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) ever take such bold steps?” Taking on the BJP for its charge that the Congress is “soft on terror”, Manmohan Singh said that there is a “lot of difference and contradictions” in the way the BJP speaks about and “actually acts” on terrorism. Hinting at the BJP for communalizing politics, he said: “There are some parties dividing the country on caste, creed, and religious lines and this is dangerous for our country. We need to be careful and prevent such divisive forces to break the country’s secular fabric by indulging in hate campaigns and mixing religion with politics.” He also said the Congress if voted to power would make a renewed effort to curb militancy and terror even as he appealed to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for peace talks. “Our doors for peace talks are open and we want the ULFA to shun the path of violence and come and hold peace talks with us,” Manmohan Singh said.

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