P. V. Narasimha Rao

9th Prime Minister of India (1921-2004)

P. V. Narasimha Rao, born Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao (Telugu:పాములపర్తి వేంకట నరసింహ రావు June 28, 1921December 23, 2004) was an Indian lawyer and politician who served as the tenth Prime Minister of India (1991–1996). His ascendancy to the prime ministership was politically significant in that he was the first holder of this office from non-Hindi-speaking south India.

P. V. Narasimha Rao in 1994

Quotes edit

  • I believe that the charges are baseless and I knew that I had nothing to worry about on that score. But after one full round in the courts, I was beginning to feel embarrassed.
    • In an interview with Vir Sanghvi after he resigned from the post of Congress President and on the issue of corruption case, in "The charges are baseless and I knew I had nothing to worry about".

While nobody was opening their mouths in other parties, mouths were wide open in the Congress edit

The Rediff Interview in: While nobody was opening their mouths in other parties, mouths were wide open in the Congress, Rediff.com, 1996

  • The Congress president's post is different from others. It used to be called rashtrapati in the old days. There is just one in the whole country. I felt it was important to maintain the image of that office regardless of whether or not I thought there was a case against me.
  • I do not attach too much importance to what astrologers say. In my case, they have never been right. Perhaps, my birth date is inaccurate. Nobody predicted I would be prime minister. Why prime minister? Nobody even predicted I would be chief minister.
    • On his purported deep interest in astrological predictions.
  • The Congress for some time remained as a respectable residue. But a comprehensive party cannot survive too long as a residue. It may be small in size at a given time, but its composition should still remain comprehensive. This could be termed as the widest connotation of secularism. The Congress, therefore, is the most secular party in the real sense.
  • The second category of personal questions would be more relevant when I finally call it a day and find myself in a reminiscent or atavistic frame of mind. As it is, I am still on the move -- and intend to be so. It is not fair to ask me to anticipate the possible answers to such 'terminal' questions. I hope my reluctance to answer these questions will be understood in the right spirit.

About P. V. Narasimha Rao edit

  • He could speak several Indian and foreign languages, he served under both Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv, as foreign, defence and home minister. His political activism dated back to the struggle for independence. also a poet and writer and after his retirement he wrote a book following the career of a person rising through the ranks of Indian politics.
    • BBC in: "Narasimha Rao - a reforming PM".
  • It was a decisive period in India's move from a socialist-style economy to greater privatisation, engineered by Mr Singh who was to go on to become prime minister himself.
    • BBC in: "Narasimha Rao - a reforming PM".
  • He was voted out of office in 1996 - the first Indian outside of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to last a full-term - the economy was on a path of rapid growth.
    • BBC in: "Narasimha Rao - a reforming PM".
  • The real Narasimha Rao comes across more in the spoken part of the interview than in the written responses. But then, that is Narasimha Rao: Always preferring to be cautious than to be forthcoming.
    • Vir Sanghvi in: "The charges are baseless and I knew I had nothing to worry about".
  • My favourite among Indian Prime Ministers is definitely Narasimha Rao. He undid the Nehruvian legacy and stemmed the rising tide of the fateful consequences of Nehru's follies. He actually implemented the BJP programme, just as Atal Behari Vajpayee is now implementing the Congress programme. Rao started liberalizing the economy, lifting the stifling socialist controls. He opened diplomatic relations with Israel. He defeated the Khalistani terrorists, nipped the beginnings of Tamil Tiger separatism on Indian soil in the bud, and pushed back Kashmiri terrorism to the point where the Kasmiri people stopped supporting it so that it is now manned entirely by foreign mercenaries. And he allowed the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
    • Elst, K. An Interview With Koenraad Elst , 2002 [1]
  • He started his career as a rationing officer in the Civil Supplies Department. Later, after he completed his law degree, he worked as a junior lawyer under stalwart Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, who later became the Chief Minister of the state [Andhra Pradesh].
    • Ramesh Kandula in: "His unfinished work—a sequel to “The Insider".
  • His victory from the Nandyal constituency (in Kadapa district) gave him an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1991 for the maximum votes — 89.5%! — polled. In 1996, he had an opposition to contend with, and still managed to poll 366, 431 votes and defeat the TDP.
    • Ramesh Kandula in: "His unfinished work—a sequel to “The Insider".
  • He surely failed as prime minister to prevent the tragedy at Ayodhya. But his rivals in the Congress did their own party such disservice by spreading the canard that his (and their) government was responsible for that crime. This, more than anything else, lost them the Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar... any dispassionate reading of recent political history will tell you that this is a self-inflicted injury. The Congress has itself built a mythology whereby the Muslims have come to hold their party as responsible for Babri as the BJP … If you take Justice Liberhan’s indictment of so many in the BJP seriously, you cannot at the same time dismiss his exoneration of Rao, and the government, and the Congress Party under him. You surely cannot put the clock back on so much injustice done to him, like not even allowing his body to be taken inside the AICC building. But the least you can do now is to give him a memorial spot too along the Yamuna as one of our more significant (and secular) prime ministers who led us creditably through five difficult years, crafted our post-Cold War diplomacy, launched economic reform and, most significantly, discovered the political talent and promise of a quiet economist called Manmohan Singh.
  • To blame him for the Ayodhya fiasco, [therefore], is not only dishonest [on the part of the Congress party], but also disgraceful. More importantly, Rao’s failure cannot be an excuse to deprive him of all the credit that is his due as the nation’s prime minister at one of the most difficult times in its contemporary history.
  • Looking back, I may say that the government of the day made a wrong political judgment. Mr Narasimha Rao paid the price for this. The Congress party paid the price for this wrong political judgment. But it was induced by the lies and false promises of BJP.
  • P. Chidambaram on the issue of the destruction of the disputed structure of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and its aftermath on the Congress Party following the Liberhan Commission’s report on the demolition of the mosque in:A K Bhattacharya: Rao's ghost may still haunt Congress, BusinessStandard, 16 December 2009
GDP of India has risen rapidly since 1991.
  • The Congress leadership displayed no such candour when credit had to be given to the man under whose premiership economic reforms were initiated in 1991 and the Indian economy moved on to a new path of higher growth and development. Even today, the Congress leadership shows extreme reluctance to acknowledge the role Rao played in appointing Manmohan Singh as his finance minister and giving him the freedom to unveil the economic reforms package to bail the Indian economy out of an unprecedented crisis.
    • A K Bhattacharya in: "A K Bhattacharya: Rao's ghost may still haunt Congress".
  • He was also the initiator of India’s “Look East” policy. He understood early on that the centre of gravity of global economics was shifting to the East and that India’s economic future needed to be linked to the booming economies in East Asia. He expanded India’s engagements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) not only as a matter of India’s economic revival, but also as a counterweight to rising Chinese dominance.
    • Harsh V. Pant in: "Give Narasimha Rao his due".
At a public function
  • Despite his caricature as being indecisive, he was one of the most decisive leaders this nation has seen. On all crucial issues, he took decisions that have continued to shape India’s rise over the last two decades. Manmohan Singh may be touted as the father of Indian economic reforms; but as Singh has himself acknowledged, it was Rao who fathered the process. Singh was an economic technocrat with little understanding of political constraints. It was Rao who shielded Singh from the left wing of his own party, a flank that had left no stone unturned in opposing the economic liberalization programme. Rao made economic reforms politically tenable at a time when his own party was out to scuttle his most ambitious undertaking. How ironical, then, that today the same Congress-wallahs try to take credit for India’s economic success without acknowledging Rao’s role.
    • Harsh V. Pant in: "Give Narasimha Rao his due".
  • The Indian and Western elite did not regard any of Nehru’s successors as ‘thinking’ leaders. Indira Gandhi tried hard to win over India’s intellectual elite, but the Emergency broke a nascent link. When men like P.N. Haksar and P.N. Dhar were hounded out of her inner circle, India’s intellectuals deserted her. Rajiv Gandhi was never taken seriously by this elite. Narasimha Rao may have been a scholar in his own right, but he was an ‘outsider’ to India’s metropolitan elite. In Andhra Pradesh, among the Telugu-speaking elite he was known as an ashtavadhani, a literary master. But Delhi’s elite tended to conflate his intellectual achievements with the fact that he was fluent in many languages. Vajpayee too was a highly regarded poet. Indeed, Rao and Vajpayee enjoyed the company of intellectuals and could count many professors among their friends. But in the snobbish world of the metropolitan elite, an Oxbridge type like Dr Singh was regarded as a class apart from these home-grown politician-intellectuals.
    • Baru, Sanjaya (2015). The accidental Prime Minister.

Narasimha Rao led India at crucial juncture, was father of economic reform: Pranab edit

Pranab Mukherjee, President of India, in: B V Shiva Shankar Narasimha Rao led India at crucial juncture, was father of economic reform: Pranab, The Times of India, 31 December 2012

  • The idea of economical reforms was not out of blue. It was there in the Congress election manifesto, which was prepared under Narasimha Rao's astute supervision. Then, I used to write the manifesto, and Narsimha Rao used to vet it.
  • It was not easy for a normal politician to implement economic reforms, and PVN knew it. He was only the second prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru to make a person worked in his capacity as governor of RBI the finance minister. Nehru selected C.D. Deshmuk, who had worked as the governor of RBI, to be his finance minister in 1950.
  • He gave Manmohan Singh full freedom to navigate the crisis and introduce for-reaching economic reforms. He had himself spearheaded the move for dismantling the license regime as the prime minister while holding additional charge of the industry ministry. He could appreciate the significance of the seminal policy of economic liberalization, [Pranabh said,] as he witnessed the making of the policy being deputy chairperson of the Planning Commission, and commerce minister in PVN's cabinet.
  • He was the visionary who launched the 'look East' policy and gave India's engagement with ASEAN a different meaning. India became a Sectoral Dialogue Partner of ASEAN in 1992 and Full Dialogue Partner in 1996. And now, we sit with them in the summit, as India is the largest trading partner of ASEAN.

Unsung hero of the India story edit

S A Aiyar in: Unsung hero of the India story., The Economic Times, 2011.Jun.26

  • Twenty years ago [1991], he became Prime Minister and initiated economic reforms that transformed India. The Congress party doesn’t want to remember him: it is based entirely on loyalty to the Gandhi family, and Rao was not a family member. But the nation should remember him as the man who changed India, and the world too.
  • His master stroke was to appoint Manmohan Singh as finance minister. He wanted a non-political reformer at the centre of decision-making, who could be backed or dumped as required. He presented Singh as the spearhead of reform while he himself advocated a middle path. Yet, ultimately, it was his vision that Singh executed.
  • He did not want to draw attention to himself. So he ingeniously made the delicensing announcement on the morning of the day Manmohan Singh was presenting his first Budget. The media clubbed the Budget and delicensing stories together as one composite reform story. In the public mind, Manmohan Singh was seen as the liberalizer, while Rao stayed in the background.
  • How unjust! He deserves a high place in economic history for challenging the Bank-IMF approach on painful austerity, and focusing instead on a few key changes that produced fast growth with minimum pain. The World Bank itself later changed its policy and started targeting “binding constraints” (like industrial licensing). He could have achieved nothing without Rao’s backing. Today, 20 years after the start of India’s economic miracle, let us toast India’s most underrated Prime Minister — Narasimha Rao.

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