'What the PM said about Modi is nothing unusual in an election year'

Determined to hand over the baton to another individual instead of seeking a third consecutive term for himself as prime minister, Manmohan Singh press conference today was a mere formality announcing his retirement until he adopted a surprisingly bellicose stand against Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

"Without going into the credentials of anyone, I think it will be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as the prime minister," Singh said, in an uncharacteristically belligerent statement that invited the ire of the BJP.

 What the PM said about Modi is nothing unusual in an election year

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. PTI

The BJP responded with Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley lashing out at Singh saying he had "lowered the dignity of the Prime Minister's Office by his choice of words" against Modi.

But some believe that what Manmohan Singh did was fair game given this year is an election year.

"Why is the BJP surprised? What are the names that LK Advani, Arun Jaitley, Narendra Modi called the prime minister for all these years? What the prime minister said today is nothing unusual in an election year," Vinod Mehta, editorial chairman of the Outlook Group, said on CNN-IBN show India at 9. 

"Disaster is not a harsh word. What about Modi's repeated taunts on Rahul Gandhi by calling him shehzada (prince)?" he said.

He said that if the BJP was prepared to dish out uncomplimentary references to the Prime Minister they should be willing to take it as well.

He may have a point. Before the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, BJP patriarch Advani had described Singh as a nikkamma (worthless) prime minister.

However, some like senior journalist Swapan Dasgupta, believe that the PM may have erred in his choice of words.

"Disaster is not an unparliamentary word but precising on Ahmedabad is very uncharacteristic of the prime minister," he said.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, made it clear that the BJP should not shy away from facing the truth about Modi.

"When you aspire to be the prime minister what's wrong in putting forward the communal-secular divide?" Singhvi said.

The BJP, however, argued that the PM was merely raking up the issue of communalism despite it not being an election rally.

"Today's press conference was not an election campaign. The Congress must realise that the country has travelled beyond vote bank politics and communal-secular divide," Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP leader and Deputy Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said.

The Prime Minister may have started a political war of words by going after the BJP's prime ministerial candidate but in an election year and with the dice loaded against them, the Congress will need a lot more to take on Modi. The Prime Minister may have only set the ball rolling on a war of words that can only escalate in the coming days.

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Updated Date: Jan 04, 2014 08:35:29 IST