Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today declared that he would bow out of office after the Lok Sabha elections and strongly backed Rahul Gandhi for the job while warning that Narendra Modi would be "disastrous" for the country.
"I will hand over the baton to a new prime minister," Singh said in an opening statement at a rare press conference, making it clear that he would no longer be in the running for the job when he completes his 10-year tenure in May after the Lok Sabha polls.
A number of questions at the 75-minute press conference here pertained to his record in office which he deflected by repeatedly saying that it was his belief that history would be kinder to him than the contemporary media or the opposition.
But a question on his being perceived as a "weak" prime minister, brought forth an uncharacteristically strong attack on Modi when he accused him of "presiding" over the "massacre" of innocent people during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
"If by strong PM you mean that you preside over mass massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmedabad, if that is the measure of strength, I do not believe that kind of strength this country needs, least of all in its prime minister," he said.
At another point while answering a question on a potential contest between Rahul and Modi, Singh said, "I sincerely believe that it will be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as prime minister."
He ridiculed Modi's campaign for a "Congress-free" India saying that was not going to materialise.