Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to TV news channel CNN-IBN about post-poll alliance with the Left and who should be the Congress prime minister-in-waiting.
Three phases (of general elections) down, how confident are you that the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) will form the next government?
I am pretty confident that when the end result is known, the Congress-led UPA will form the government at the Centre.
But if you’re short of numbers, would you reach out to the Left parties?
Politics is the art of the possible. Who we reach out to and who we do not reach out to is a matter we can talk about only when the election results are known. We have worked with the Left before. For four years, they were our partners. I have enjoyed working with the Left. I have many friends there. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is a very good friend of mine.
You say politics is the art of the possible. But if you were to take support from the Left, would you be prepared to give up operationalising the Indo-US nuclear deal?
There is no question of giving up the deal. That situation will not arise. But no patriotic Indian would suggest that a deal that required so much hard workshould be annulled.
It’s nearly a year since the deal and Indians haven’t seen its benefits yet. Was it really worth losing the Left parties’ support?
It’s definitely worth it. There are many processes to go. It is only when they are completed will you see some beneficial result. Already, there are offers of thousands of watts of power, and uranium.
Apart from the Left, what if your other alliance partners don’t do so well? Would you be willing to reach out to others, Nitish (Kumar) and Jayalalitha, for example?
We will cross that bridge when we come to it. The situation is much too fluid.
As PM, you tried very hard to improve relations with Pakistan, and yet today, the ties are at their lowest ebb in five years. Could it have been avoided?
It was avoidable if Pakistan had a strong and purposeful goverment. I have always believed that a strong, peaceful and moderate Pakistan is in India’s interest. We worked very hard on that and in fact, I and Gen (Pervez) Musharraf nearly reached an agreement, a non-territorial solution to all problems, but then, Gen Musharraf got into many difficulties with the Chief Justice and on other fronts. Therefore, the whole process came to a halt. I still believe we have no ill will towards Pakistan. Our only concern is that Pakistan should cooperate with us by not allowing its territory to be used for acts of terror. We wish the government well. I’ve often said we can choose our friends but not our neighbours.
As PM, do you have regrets about things you couldn’t do in your first term which you would like to do in your second term?
I’d like to work on agriculture, education and rural health.
Looking back five years, tell us a bit about the moment you found out you would be PM
Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi told me 48 hours before. I tried to resist, to argue that she was the best person to unify the party. I told her I had my limitations, that I have no mass following, but she said she had looked around and I would have to undertake the responsibility. The faith she posed in me added to the burden of the office I was going to assume
Looking into the future, if you are re-elected PM, will you like to finish the entire term or will you, maybe mid-term, think about handing it over to someone else, obviously everyone would think Rahul Gandhi?
I have said Rahul Gandhi has all the qualities a good PM should have. I certainly at some stage would like the seat of power to be in the hands of people younger than I am.
On Swiss Bank a/cs:
It’s all election propaganda. LK Advani wrote a letter to me in 2008. We had taken action on that right away...we got info on LGT Bank and we wrote to the German government on it. Advani is raising this Swiss bank issue just for the sake of propaganda. Iin fact, he is harming the government’s efforts by warning people, who will take their money out before they are detected.
The Quattrochchi case is an embarrassment for the government of India. We have tried to extradite him from Malaysia, from Argentina, and the courts have said we don’t have a strong case. Now, it is not a good reflection on the Indian legal system that we harass people while the world says we have no case. Before the matter was referred, Interpol asked India why do we want to keep him under the red corner notice. The law ministry referred the matter to the Attorney General, who gave the advice that it (the notice) should be lifted.
On Sikhs in Pakistan
We have protested to the Pakistan government that the Sikh minority has not been treated properly. The jaziya is uncalled for. It is the duty of the Pakistani government to protect the interests of all minorities.