DNA Exclusive: Remembering PV Narasimha Rao, why Congress neglected precursor to Economic Reforms?


New Delhi: Former prime minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh is often dubbed as the “accidental” prime minister of the country but you might not know that the first “accidental” prime minister is not Singh but PV Narasimha Rao, whose 100th birth anniversary is today. Narasimha Rao was born on June 28, 1921, in Andhra Pradesh’s Warangal, which is now in Telangana.

Zee News Editor-in-Chief Sudhir Chaudhary on Monday (June 28) remembered former PV Narasimha Rao on his 100th birth anniversary and discussed why the Congress party neglected the stalwart who was the precursor to the economic reforms.

When Rao became the 9th prime minister of India in 1991, he not only took over the Congress but also took historical and revolutionary steps to strengthen the weakening country.

Rao became the first prime minister of the country, who despite not being from the Gandhi-Nehru family, ran the government for 5 years and never let the dignity of the prime minister’s post diminish.

But despite this, Rao never got the respect he deserved. Congress never gave the status to him, which was given to Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Had he been from the Nehru-Gandhi family, today the Congress party would be celebrating his 100th birth anniversary with great enthusiasm, Congress state governments would advertise full-page in newspapers and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi would go to pay homage to his ‘samadhi’ and also issue public statements. But neither the Gandhi family paid any tribute to him nor wrote anything for him on social media.

Here’s the story of Narasimha Rao and the reason behind Gandhi family’s uneasiness over him.

India faced many challenges in the 1990s. But Narasimha Rao had decided that he would now retire from politics. He had won the Lok Sabha elections for 8 consecutive times, had been the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, held the responsibility of the Home Minister in Indira Gandhi’s government and in Rajiv Gandhi’s government worked as External Affairs Minister and Defense Minister.

With these achievements, by the year 1991, his age was also 70 years old and this is the reason why he had decided that he would retire from politics and in view of this he had also decided not to contest the 1991 Lok Sabha elections. . However, during the elections, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, during a rally in Tamil Nadu after the first phase of voting.

After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in the middle of the elections, some leaders of the Congress party wanted to make Sonia Gandhi the party president, but the then Maharashtra Chief Minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Sitaram Kesari opposed it. After this, Sonia Gandhi also refused to become the party president.

At that time Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet secretary PN Haksar suggested to Sonia Gandhi that she should make Shankar Dayal Sharma the party president. But Sharma did not accept the offer due to his ill health.

Narasimha Rao’s name came up only after Shankar Dayal Sharma’s refusal and the reason behind this was that his humble and mild-mannered personality.

Rao had heart surgery in 1990, due to which the leaders close to Sonia Gandhi felt that he would not remain the prime minister for long and she would also get a chance to prepare herself for this post.

Thus, Rao was elected the Congress President and after that, he became the 9th prime minister of the country. That’s why he is called the first “accidental” prime minister of India.

Five major achievements of PV Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister:

1.  Despite not being from the Nehru-Gandhi family, Narasimha Rao ran a minority government successfully for a full term of five years.

2.  Rao brought revolutionary changes in the economic field. The rupee was devalued in 1991 for the first time since 1966.

In July 1991, Rao also introduced the New Industrial Policy in the Parliament and this policy was considered as one of the biggest economic reforms in the history of independent India.

3. He started the tradition of appointing a bureaucrat as a minister. When Narasimha Rao became the prime minister, Pranab Mukherjee hoped that he would be made the finance minister in his government, but Rao chose Dr Manmohan Singh, who was then the Chairman of the University Grants Commission and also the Governor of RBI.

4. The fourth achievement was a major change in foreign policy. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Rao took India’s relations with the western countries to new heights. India’s relations with America strengthened and the country established diplomatic relations with Israel for the first time.

5. He maintained the dignity of the office of the prime minister. Being the prime minister of the Congress government, Narasimha Rao never bowed his head at 10 Janpath.

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