After 10 years of eventful rule, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today bowed out of office, insisting that he had tried to do his best in serving the country and his tenure was an "open book", reports Times of India.
Singh bid adieu as prime minister of two terms in a televised address where he said the judgment delivered by the people in the elections should be respected by all and wished the incoming government every success.
The 81-year-old economist, credited with playing a key role in ushering in economic reforms in the 1990s, leaves a mixed legacy of achievements and failures during his tenure.
He drove to the Rashtrapati Bhavan from his official residence 7, Race Course Road, to submit the resignation of his council of ministers to President Pranab Mukherjee.
Mukherjee accepted the resignation and requested him and his colleagues to continue till the new government is formed.
Earlier this morning, the Cabinet met and recommended dissolution of the Lok Sabha. The Cabinet adopted a resolution lauding the role of Singh.
Looking back, he said India saw many successes and achievements "that we should be proud of" and the country has become far stronger in last one decade. But it still has vast latent development potential.
Singh, the first Sikh prime minister, was the surprise choice for the top post when his name was suddenly proposed by Congress President Sonia in 2004 when the party-led coalition UPA was in a position to form government.
"I address you today for the last time as prime minister of India. Ten years ago, when I was entrusted with this responsibility, I entered upon it with diligence as my tool, truth as my beacon and a prayer that I might always do the right thing," Singh said in his brief address to the nation.
"Today, as I prepare to lay down office, I am aware that well before the final judgment that we all await from the Almighty, there is judgment in the court of public opinion that all elected officials and governments are required to submit themselves to.
"Fellow citizens, each one of us should respect the judgement that you have delivered. The just concluded elections have deepened the foundations of our democratic polity," Singh said.
Singh, who had achieved the distinction of serving as prime minister for the longest consecutive tenure after Jawaharlal Nehru's 17 years in office, chose the occasion to refer to his humble origin as "an underprivileged child of Partition".
"...This great land of ours where I, an underprivileged child of Partition, was empowered enough to rise and occupy high office. It is both a debt that I will never be able to repay and a decoration that I will always wear with pride...
"As I leave office, my abiding memory will be the love and kindness that I have always received from you," he said.
Singh, whose second tenure between 2009 and 2014 saw the government battling various corruption scandals, insisted, "As I have said on many occasions, my life and tenure in public office are an open book. I have always tried to do my best in serving this great nation of ours."
He added "In the last ten years, we as a country have seen many successes and achievements that we should be proud of. Today, India is a far stronger country in every respect than it was a decade ago. I give credit for these successes to all of you. However, there is still vast latent development potential in our country and we must collectively work hard to realize it."
Asserting that he is confident about the future of India, the outgoing prime minister said, "I firmly believe that the emergence of India as a major powerhouse of the evolving global economy is an idea whose time has come. Blending tradition with modernity and unity with diversity, this nation of ours can show the way forward to the world."
Noting that serving this nation has been his privilege and there is nothing more that he could ask for, he said, "I wish the incoming government every success as it embarks on its task and pray for even greater successes for our nation.”
When Singh met Mukherjee to submit resignation and recommendation for dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha, the two exchanged bouquets.
After their brief meeting, Mukherjee, who had worked in Singh's Cabinet as finance, defence and external affairs minister, showed the courtesy of coming to the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to see off the prime minister.
They shook hands for sometime and were seen in an intimate conversation. Singh then also took leave of the Rashtrapati Bhavan officials, including the President's Secretary Omita Paul.
Born on September 26, 1932 in Gah village of Pakistan's Punjab province, Singh held several key positions like economic adviser to the government and deputy chairman of Planning Commission before being catapulted to the position of the prime minister in 2004.
A celebrated economist, Singh had entered politics at the height of the 1991 economic crisis when late prime minister PV Narasimha Rao inducted him into the government as finance minister.
His role, along with Rao, in lifting the economy out of the balance of payments crisis and bringing about economic reforms has been one of the main highlights of his career.