PM Manmohan Singh addresses the nation from a bullet-proof enclosure at the Red Fort during Independence Day celebrations in Delhi
Delhi: Manmohan Singh's last Independence Day speech from Red Fort before general elections was an appeal for a third straight term for the Congress-led UPA at the Centre.
The Prime Minister detailed his government's achievements over 10 years - which the BJP yesterday called the "dark decade of malgovernance" - gave explanations, highlighted flagship schemes and sent Pakistan a stern message saying it must prevent use of its territory for any anti-India activity for relations to improve. (Read: 'Ties with Pakistan can't improve if acts of terror continue')
A day after the Indian Parliament passed a strongly-worded resolution against Pakistan for its violation of a ceasefire agreement at the Line of Control, Dr Singh promised that all steps would be taken to prevent "dastardly" acts like the August 6 killing of five Indian soldiers by Pakistan Army in Poonch, Jammu and Kashmir.
Dr Singh also acknowledged Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi by appearing to attack him saying, "There can be no place for narrow and sectarian ideologies in a modern, progressive and secular country." (Read full text of PM's speech here)
Dr Singh appealed not only to people of the country to "work in this direction," but also to political parties, warning that "narrow and sectarian ideologies" would "weaken" democracy and that "we should prevent them from growing." (Read: PM warns against sectarian ideologies)
His years as PM, Dr Singh said, had "been good for communal harmony".
An hour later, the Gujarat Chief Minister offered lacerating comment on the UPA government's policy on Pakistan and China. He took Dr Singh on directly saying, "I am very disappointed with the PM's speech. There was no message. Not just me, the whole country is disappointed." He also attacked the PM on the fragile economy and challenged Dr Singh to a debate. "Let us have a competition of development between Gujarat and Delhi," he said. (Read: Modi challenges, taunts Manmohan Singh)
In his 30-minute speech, Dr Singh said the economic slowdown in India will not last long. "The average rate of economic growth that we have attained in the last nine years shows what we are capable of. However, economic growth has slowed down at present and we are working hard to remedy the situation," he said. (Read)