In an apparent attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday said the parties whose politics is based on religion cannot take the country forward and insisted that only Congress is capable of dealing with the "big challenges" facing the nation.
Addressing a public meeting in New Delhi, Dr Singh also took on BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani for raking up the issue of black money stashed in foreign banks, saying it was behaving "irresponsibly" for the sake of "election stunt".
He said BJP "does not understand" economic issues or is "deliberately misleading" people on the issue as he rubbished allegations that the government was not doing anything to bring back the black money.
Seeking a fresh mandate for the UPA, Dr Singh said the country is faced with "big challenges" and it should be given another chance to complete the unfinished tasks.
"Parties whose politics is based on religion and caste cannot take the nation forward. You do not need to go to such parties," the Prime Minister said in apparent reference to BJP.
Dr Singh, who was addressing his first election meeting in Delhi which will go to polls on May 7, said Congress is the only party that takes care of all religions, castes, particularly those who are economically and socially backward.
To buttress his point, the Prime Minister spelt out the programmes undertaken by his government for minorities, SCs and STs during the last five years, like scholarship schemes.
He said his government had also introduced Communal Harmony Bill in Parliament which is aimed at dealing with riots.
Describing terrorism as one of the major problems facing the country, Dr Singh took a dig at BJP saying while it claims that only it can deal with the scourge, its "track record during NDA government shows something else".
He referred to the Indian Airlines plane hijacking of 1999 and said three dreaded terrorists were released from Indian jails and taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan.
"During NDA regime, when Advani was the Home Minister, there terrorists attacked Parliament, Red Fort, Raghunath temple and Akshardham temple and Jammu and Kashmir assembly. In Kargil, there was intrusion but the BJP government was sleeping. This is the record of BJP government. Now, you have to decide how much decisive and strong BJP is," Dr Singh said, tearing into BJP's slogan of 'Strong leader, Decisive government'.
Drawing a contrast with the BJP "records", the Prime Minister referred to the Mumbai attacks and said the Congress government has been dealing with terrorism with "utmost courage" and "determination".
Dr Singh said a Congress-led government will take strong steps, including strengthening coastal security, to make the country safe but will be careful that members of a particular community are not harassed unnecessarily in the process.
He said the menace like terrorism needs to be fought collectively within the nation while mobilising world community.
Referring to the lack of peace and stability in India's neighbourhood like Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Dr Singh said only Congress has the experience to deal with such challenges.
Hitting out at BJP for raking up the issue of black money stashed away in foreign banks, the prime minister said its leader Advani was doing so for "political stunt". He said BJP was "behaving irresponsibly" by raising the issue which can alert those having illegal money abroad and they could withdraw the money.
Dr Singh also ridiculed Advani for citing figures of black money on the basis of a website on such a "significant issue". Rubbishing as "absolutely false" BJP's allegation that the government was not doing anything to bring back home the black money, he said India had contacted other countries and the issue was discussed at the recent G-20 Summit in London. He hoped results would come soon.