PM Manmohan Singh signals retirement after polls

SinghPrime Minister Manmohan Singh. (PTI)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday announced that he would bow out of office after the Lok Sabha elections even if the UPA returned to power, ending speculation about his future amid a growing clamour in the Congress to name vice president Rahul Gandhi as the party's prime ministerial candidate well ahead of the polls.

Singh once again strongly backed Rahul to succeed him, even as he sharply attacked the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, saying as PM he would be "disastrous" for the country.

"I will hand over the baton to a new prime minister after the elections," Singh told a press conference - only his third in nearly 10 years in office and the first in almost three years. 

Singh claimed he had never felt like resigning at any time from the top job and expressed the hope that his successor would be from UPA.

Reaffirming his faith in Rahul's ability to take over from him, Singh said the Gandhi scion "has outstanding credentials to be the PM candidate". The party, he said, would announce its PM candidate at the appropriate time.

Singh, however, was mostly defensive during his rare outing with the media when questioned about his record in office. He parried many questions, repeatedly taking shelter behind what he said was his belief that "history would be kinder to him than the contemporary media or the opposition".

He sought to defend the government's record on corruption by arguing that the coal blocks allotment scandal and the 2G scam allegations pertained to UPA-1 after which the country had voted the alliance back to power in 2009. "They do not seem to have paid heed to all charges of corruption," he said referring to voters, skirting the fact that the scandals hit the headlines after the 2009 elections.

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