Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi did pose a challenge to the Congress and “there is no room for complacency.”

Dr. Singh was responding to a query if Mr. Modi is indeed a challenge the Congress should take very seriously, during the “Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here.

“As an organised political party, we cannot underestimate the power of opposition to unsettle the ship of the State. Therefore I am one of those who take very seriously our opposition, there is no room for complacency,” he said.

The Congress, he said, “is going into elections with a spirit of self-confidence and that should not be mistaken whatever may be the outcome of the Assembly elections.”

To a query on the need for and timing of the Communal Violence Bill, Dr. Singh said: “it is not a vote catching gimmick.” He declared that it was a bill “whose time had come.” He noted how in the last five or six years, the country was grappling with the problem of communal riots in one or the other part. In particular, the Prime Minister made a mention of the recent riots in Muzaffarnagar. “It was a reminder that although as a country we can take pride in our ability to protect all people of our country, yet there are times when that did not happen,” he said.

“Our effort has been to create an environment where officials would have the responsibility to look after the law and order situation as effectively as is humanly possibly. Plus, also if riots cannot be prevented, there should be very quick compensation for the victims. So I think these are two basic principles which underline the purpose of the Communal Violence Bill.”

Earlier in his Summit address, Dr. Singh spoke about how his government had effectively contained both communal riots and terror strikes. He said that while any lapse on the part of security forces and the intelligence and law and order machinery came in for understandable criticism, two things needed to be kept in mind. “One, a terrorist has to succeed only once to cause pain to innocent people, while security forces have to succeed every minute of everyday to prevent such terror attacks. By this yardstick, we must appreciate the dedication and commitment of our security forces and intelligence agencies in preventing many, many more attacks.”

More importantly, he said, since “creating communal tension, communal conflict and communal divisions in India is the ultimate objective of terrorism,” in the past decade, “such acts of terrorism have failed to generate communal conflict.”

Dr. Singh took a dig at the developments in the wake of the Anna Hazare movement, saying over the past two years, some well-meaning and concerned citizens have tried to spread cynicism by accusing the entire political class of being corrupt and anti-people. While many began to suggest that democracy had not served India well and even attacked the institution of Parliament by refusing to respect its judgment, people have reposed their faith in the parliamentary system by turning out in record numbers in the recently concluded Assembly elections.

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