Reacting sharply to Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani's contention that Manmohan Singh was a weak prime minister, All India Congress Committee General Secretary Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday stated that Dr Singh was not weak as he was not the one who had 'buckled' to terrorists during the Kandahar hijack episode.
"He (Singh) has achieved a hell of a lot. He has kept the country growing at a faster rate than it has ever grown. He has brought massive pressure on our neighbour after the Mumbai attack and he has given us a strategic deal (with the United States) which the previous government had not done," he told a press conference in Puducherry.
Asked about Advani's oft-repeated criticism about Dr Singh being a weak prime minister, Gandhi retorted that the PM had shown tremendous grit and determination. "Let us not go back very far. During the (negotiations on) the US deal, the PM showed tremendous grit, will and toughness. These are easy things to say. He did not buckle in front of terrorists in Kandahar. He has achieved a lot for the country," Gandhi added.
When he was asked to compare Advani with Dr Singh, Rahul said he did not want to make statements about Advani 'who is a senior leader', but he would definitely speak about the PM.
Gandhi said, "Advani is also a senior leader. He is the leader of the BJP. It is not my intention to make statements about Advani. I do not like to make statements but I can say a little about my leader. But I do not see myself saying something about Advani."
He said he had the pleasure of working with Dr Singh, who was 'a first class gentleman and an honourable gentleman'. Asked whether he saw himself as prime minister in the near future, he said this question has been raised quite often in the past and added that he wanted to attract youths to enter politics.
"I enjoy doing this work," he said referring to the work he had done in Punjab and other states where he had enrolled lot of young members into the party. Gandhi pointed out that in Punjab, the membership of youth Congress has gone up to 300,000 from 30,000 and in Gujarat, he has been able to enroll 12,000 youths into the party.