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|September 2, 1999||
Manmohan blames RSS for anti-Sikh riots
Former finance minister Manmohan Singh, Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha from South Delhi, today accused the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party, of being involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh carnage in the capital.
Addressing reporters at the Press Club of India, Dr Singh said the 1984 riots were "a black spot and the saddest event". But the Congress as an organisation had no role in it, he claimed. "It should not have happened."
He pointed out that in 1984 he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan by the President of India. Had there been any institutionalised anti-Sikh bias in the Congress, which was then the ruling party, he would not have got the coveted award, he argued.
The first information reports lodged at different police stations in Delhi prove that several RSS men were involved in the riots, Dr Singh said.
He dismissed as "BJP propaganda" reports that Sikh voters had asked him during campaigning how they could vote for a party that had "blood on its hands".
He said the BJP had no right to dictate from where he could contest. "How can they prevent me from contesting an election just because I am a Sikh?" he challenged.
Though he was non-committal on who would be prime minister if the Congress came to power, Dr Singh said it would be decided by the party after the results are known.
He said the Congress does not consider it so important to name the prime minister before the election as it is trying to contest on the basis of issues. He said he is against any kind of "gutter politics" and trading of personal charges. The remarks made by Defence Minister George Fernandes and Information and Broadcasting Minister Pramod Mahajan were uncalled for, he said.
He dared the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government to institute an inquiry against him if it was sure that there was a scam when he was governor of the Reserve Bank of India.
Dr Singh said the possibility of a scandal fuelling the current stock market boom could not be ruled out. He said that though the 1992 securities scandal was detected when he was finance minister, it had begun during the tenure of his predecessor, Yashwant Singh, who is the finance minister again today.
Dr Singh said his party would review the 'Most Favoured Nation' status given to Pakistan if Islamabad continues to behave in a belligerent manner towards India.
The BJP's argument in defence of sugar imports from Pakistan under the open general licence does not stand scrutiny as the government could very well have withdrawn the commodity from the OGL category, Dr Singh pointed out.
Singh also lashed out at the government for its failure on the telecom front, saying that his party favours a review of the policy. He said transparency is absolutely necessary in such matters, but the manner in which Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had acted and the fact that the telecommunications minister was changed after the election was announced tend to give the impression that all is not above board.
Dr Singh said the Congress is going to the people seeking a clear-cut majority to implement its policies. The question of forming a coalition will be decided only after the results come in.
Asked if the Congress would join hands with the Left parties in a coalition, he said: "We will cross that bridge when we come to it."
Answering a stream of questions on economic issues, he said priority would be given to speeding up economic growth while simultaneously emphasising poverty-alleviation programmes.
Poverty removal will be through enhanced spending on health and education, better delivery systems, greater investment in agriculture and rural development, and expansion of the National Renewal Fund and the Employment Guarantee Scheme.
He said the BJP's economic agenda is a hotchpotch and its social and political philosophy such that it will take the country back to the 17th century into a world of fundamentalism and narrow nationalistic and parochial goals.
The Congress agenda, on the other hand, is futuristic, aimed at taking the country into the 21st century by ensuring a better deal for the poor, he said.
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