Ten years after taking up his first term in office, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced that he will not be running for another term in the upcoming elections.
The 81-year-old has been at the head of the country since winning the elections, in May 2004, as part of the Congress party, and has gone on to become India’s longest ever serving PM.
Mr Singh has now issued his full support to Rahul Gandhi to rule the country if his party wins once again in the next round of elections, scheduled before May 2014.
“In a few months’ time, after the general election, I will hand the baton over to a new prime minister,” Singh said at a rare news conference, adding that a ‘new generation’ would guide the country.
Mr Singh, who was already widely expected to step down after the vote, said 43-year-old Gandhi, should be the Congress party’s prime ministerial candidate.
He added: “Rahul Gandhi has outstanding credentials to be nominated as the … candidate and I hope our party will take that decision at an appropriate time.”
In an also rare open critique, Mr Singh added that if opposition leader, Narendra Modi, were to be put in the position of power, the results would be ‘disastrous’ for the country.
“Someone who presided over the massacre of innocent people should not be the prime minister,” Mr Singh said in uncharacteristically harsh words for Mr Modi.
Modi has been accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in the state in 2002, which left more than 1,000 dead. Modi denies wrongdoing and a Supreme Court investigation found no evidence to prosecute him.
However, the court ruling did not do much to alter Mr Singh’s mind, responding to claims he was a weak leader he said: “If by a strong prime minister they mean you preside over the massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmedabad, if that is the measure of strength, I do not believe that is the sort of strength this country needs, least of all from its prime minister.”