EXTRA: 'Talking loudly' is not the issue, says Indian premier

EXTRA: 'Talking loudly' is not the issue, says Indian premier New Delhi - As the decibel level rises in the run-up to India's general elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his sharpest reaction to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani's charge that he was a weak premier, said Friday that he should be judged by his actions and not his speech. "One cannot be judged strong or weak by merely talking loudly," Singh told journalists in Delhi.

Asked about his reaction to Advani's repeated charge that he was a weak and puppet prime minister, Singh, said: "Using harsh language does not solve any problems. It accentuates conflict."

Referring to Advani's challenge to face him in a US-style presidential debate, Singh said he could not match the BJP leader in public speaking.

"I am not a good speaker, but I take decisions," he said. "I believe that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. What is the record of Advani?"

He said the BJP, under Advani's leadership, had not allowed parliament - where debate should take place - to function, adding that he had no desire to do Advani the honour of debating him as if he were an alternative prime minister.

Singh also questioned Advani's role during the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya town of Uttar Pradesh state in 1992 by Hindu fanatics. The incident was followed by widespread communal riots.

"What is the record of Advaniji?" Singh asked, referring to Advani using a Hindi suffix of respect. "He was present at the time when Babri Masjid was demolished. If he was a strong leader, he would have staked his reputation in preventing the carnage."

India's general elections are scheduled to be held in five phases beginning Thursday.

Singh is the prime ministerial nominee of the incumbent United Progressive Alliance led by the Congress Party while Advani is his rival from the BJP-led opposition National Democratic Alliance.(dpa)

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