|P. V. Narasimha Rao|
|9th Prime Minister of India|
21 June 1991 – 16 May 1996
Shankar Dayal Sharma
|Preceded by||Chandra Shekhar|
|Succeeded by||Atal Bihari Vajpayee|
|Minister of Defence|
6 March 1993 – 16 May 1996
|Preceded by||Sharad Pawar|
|Succeeded by||Pramod Mahajan|
31 December 1984 – 25 September 1985
|Prime Minister||Rajiv Gandhi|
|Preceded by||Rajiv Gandhi|
|Succeeded by||Shankarrao Chavan|
|Minister of External Affairs|
31 March 1992 – 18 January 1993
|Preceded by||Madhavsinh Solanki|
|Succeeded by||Dinesh Singh|
25 June 1988 – 2 December 1989
|Prime Minister||Rajiv Gandhi|
|Preceded by||Rajiv Gandhi|
|Succeeded by||V. P. Singh|
14 January 1980 – 19 July 1984
|Prime Minister||Indira Gandhi|
|Preceded by||Shyam Nandan Prasad Mishra|
|Succeeded by||Indira Gandhi|
|Minister of Home Affairs|
12 March 1986 – 12 May 1986
|Prime Minister||Rajiv Gandhi|
|Preceded by||Shankarrao Chavan|
|Succeeded by||Sardar Buta Singh|
19 July 1984 – 31 December 1984
|Prime Minister||Indira Gandhi
|Preceded by||Prakash Chandra Sethi|
|Succeeded by||Shankarrao Chavan|
|Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh|
30 September 1971 – 10 January 1973
|Governor||Khandubhai Kasanji Desai|
|Preceded by||Kasu Brahmananda Reddy|
|Succeeded by||President's Rule|
28 June 1921|
Vangara, Hyderabad State, British India
(now in Andhra Pradesh, India)
|Died||23 December 2004
New Delhi, Delhi, India
Indian (1948-2004 death)
|Political party||Indian National Congress|
|Spouse(s)||Satyamma Rao (d. 1970)|
|Alma mater||Osmania University
Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao (Telugu:పాములపర్తి వేంకట నరసింహ రావు 28 June 1921 – 23 December 2004) was an Indian lawyer and politician who served as the ninth Prime Minister of India (1991–1996). He led an important administration, overseeing a major economic transformation and several home incidents affecting national security of India. Rao who held the Industries portfolio was personally responsible for the dismantling of the Licence Raj as this came under the purview of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. He is often referred to as the "Father of Indian Economic Reforms". Future prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh continued the economic reform policies pioneered by Rao's government. Rao accelerated the dismantling of the License Raj, reversing the socialist policies of Rajiv Gandhi's government. He employed Dr. Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister to embark on historic economic transition. With Rao's mandate, Dr. Manmohan Singh launched India's globalisation angle of the reforms that implemented the International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies to rescue the almost bankrupt nation from economic collapse. Rao was also referred to as Chanakya for his ability to steer tough economic and political legislation through the parliament at a time when he headed a minority government.
According to Natwar Singh, "Unlike Nehru his knowledge of Sanskrit was profound. Nehru had a temper, PV a temperament. His roots were deep in the spiritual and religious soil of India. He did not need to Discover India". 11th President of India APJ Abdul Kalam described Rao as "patriotic statesman who believed that the nation is bigger than the political system". Kalam acknowledged that Rao in fact asked him to get ready for nuclear tests in 1996 but it was not carried out as government at center got changed due to 1996 general election and it was later carried out by Vajpayee led NDA government. In fact Rao briefed Vajpayee on nuclear plans. Rao's term as Prime Minister was an eventful one in India's history. Besides marking a paradigm shift from the industrialising, mixed economic model of Jawaharlal Nehru to a market driven one, his years as Prime Minister also saw the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a major right-wing party, as an alternative to the Indian National Congress which had been governing India for most of its post-independence history. Rao's term also saw the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh when BJP's Kalyan Singh was CM which triggered one of the worst Hindu-Muslim riots in the country since its independence. Rao died in 2004 of a heart attack in New Delhi. He was cremated in Hyderabad. He was a versatile personality with interests in a variety of subjects (other than politics) such as literature and computer software (including Computer programming). He spoke 17 languages.
Rao had "humble social origins". He was born on 28 June 1921 at Lakkampally village near Narsampet in Warangal District. At the age of 3 years he was adopted and brought up to Vangara village in the present-day Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh, then part of Hyderabad State. His father P. Ranga Rao and mother Rukminiamma hailed from agrarian families.
Popularly known as PV, he studied Bachelor's in the Arts college at the Osmania University and later on went to Hislop College now under Nagpur University where he completed a Master's degree in law Rao's mother tongue was Telugu and had an excellent command of Marathi. In addition to seven Indian languages (Telugu, Hindi, Urdu, Oriya, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil), he spoke English, French, Arabic, Spanish, German and Persian). Along with his distant cousin Pamulaparthi Sadasiva Rao, Ch. Raja Narendra and Devulapalli Damodar Rao, PV edited a Telugu weekly magazine called Kakatiya Patrika in the 1940s. PV and Sadasiva Rao used to contribute articles under the pen-name Jaya-Vijaya.
Narasimha Rao has three sons and five daughters. His eldest son P.V. Rangarao was an education minister in Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy cabinet and MLA from Hanamakonda Assembly Constituency, in Warangal District for two terms. His second son P.V. Rajeswara Rao was a Member of Parliament of the 11th Lok Sabha (15 May 1996 – 4 December 1997) from Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency.
Narasimha Rao was an active freedom fighter during the Indian Independence movement and joined full-time politics after independence as a member of the Indian National Congress. Narasimha Rao served brief stints in the Andhra Pradesh cabinet (1962–1971) and as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (1971–1973). His tenure as Chief minister of Andhra Pradesh is well remembered even today for his land reforms and strict implementation of land ceiling acts in Telangana region. President's rule had to be imposed to counter the Jai Andhra movement during his tenure.
When the Indian National Congress split in 1969 Rao stayed on the side of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and remained loyal to her during the Emergency period (1975–77). He rose to national prominence in 1972 for handling several diverse portfolios, most significantly Home, Defence and Foreign Affairs, in the cabinets of both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, it is speculated that he was in the running for the post of India's President along with Zail Singh in 1982.
Rao very nearly retired from politics in 1991. It was the assassination of the Congress President Rajiv Gandhi that made him make a comeback. As the Congress had won the largest number of seats in the 1991 elections, he got the opportunity to head the minority government as Prime Minister. He was the first person outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to serve as Prime Minister for five continuous years, the first to hail from southern India and also the first from the state of Andhra Pradesh. Since Rao had not contested the general elections, he then participated in a by-election in Nandyal to join the parliament. Rao won from Nandyal with a victory margin of a record 5 lakh (500,000) votes and his win was recorded in the Guinness Book Of World Records. His cabinet included Sharad Pawar, himself a strong contender for the Prime Minister's post, as Defence Minister. He also broke a convention by appointing a non-political economist and future prime minister, Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister.
|#||Position||Took Office||Left Office||Institution|
|1||Member of Legislative Assembly||1957||1977||Manthani Assembly Constituency, Karimnagar District, Andhra Pradesh|
|2||Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha||1977||1980||Hanamkonda, Andhra Pradesh|
|3||Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha||1980||1984||Hanamkonda, Andhra Pradesh|
|4||Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha||1984||1989||Ramtek, Maharashtra|
|5||Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha||1989||1991||Ramtek, Maharashtra|
|6||Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha||1991||1996||Nandyal, Andhra Pradesh|
|7||Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha||1996||1998||Berhampur, Odisha|
Adopted to avert impending 1991 economic crisis, the reforms progressed furthest in the areas of opening up to foreign investment, reforming capital markets, deregulating domestic business, and reforming the trade regime. Rao's government's goals were reducing the fiscal deficit, Privatization of the public sector and increasing investment in infrastructure. Trade reforms and changes in the regulation of foreign direct investment were introduced to open India to foreign trade while stabilising external loans. Rao wanted I.G. Patel as his Finance Minister. Patel was an official who helped prepare 14 budgets, an ex-governor of Reserve Bank of India and had headed The London School of Economics and Political Science. But Patel declined. Rao then chose Manmohan Singh for the job. Manmohan Singh, an acclaimed economist, played a central role in implementing these reforms.
Major reforms in India's capital markets led to an influx of foreign portfolio investment. The major economic policies adopted by Rao include:
- Abolishing in 1992 the Controller of Capital Issues which decided the prices and number of shares that firms could issue.
- Introducing the SEBI Act of 1992 and the Security Laws (Amendment) which gave SEBI the legal authority to register and regulate all security market intermediaries.
- Opening up in 1992 of India's equity markets to investment by foreign institutional investors and permitting Indian firms to raise capital on international markets by issuing Global Depository Receipts (GDRs).
- Starting in 1994 of the National Stock Exchange as a computer-based trading system which served as an instrument to leverage reforms of India's other stock exchanges. The NSE emerged as India's largest exchange by 1996.
- Reducing tariffs from an average of 85 percent to 25 percent, and rolling back quantitative controls. (The rupee was made convertible on trade account.)
- Encouraging foreign direct investment by increasing the maximum limit on share of foreign capital in joint ventures from 40 to 51% with 100% foreign equity permitted in priority sectors.
- Streamlining procedures for FDI approvals, and in at least 35 industries, automatically approving projects within the limits for foreign participation.
The impact of these reforms may be gauged from the fact that total foreign investment (including foreign direct investment, portfolio investment, and investment raised on international capital markets) in India grew from a minuscule US $132 million in 1991–92 to $5.3 billion in 1995–96. Rao began industrial policy reforms with the manufacturing sector. He slashed industrial licensing, leaving only 18 industries subject to licensing. Industrial regulation was rationalised.
National security, foreign policy and crisis managementEdit
Rao energised the national nuclear security and ballistic missiles program, which ultimately resulted in the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests. It is speculated that the tests were actually planned in 1995, during Rao's term in office, and that they were dropped under American pressure when the US intelligence got the whiff of it. Another view was that he purposefully leaked the information to gain time to develop and test thermonuclear device which was not yet ready. He increased military spending, and set the Indian Army on course to fight the emerging threat of terrorism and insurgencies, as well as Pakistan and China's nuclear potentials. It was during his term that terrorism in the Indian state of Punjab was finally defeated. Also scenarios of aircraft hijackings, which occurred during Rao's time ended without the government conceding the terrorists' demands. He also directed negotiations to secure the release of Doraiswamy, an Indian Oil executive, from Kashmiri terrorists who kidnapped him, and Liviu Radu, a Romanian diplomat posted in New Delhi in October 1991, who was kidnapped by Sikh terrorists. Rao also handled the Indian response to the occupation of the Hazratbal holy shrine in Jammu and Kashmir by terrorists in October 1993. He brought the occupation to an end without damage to the shrine. Similarly, he dealt with the kidnapping of some foreign tourists by a terrorist group called Al Faran in Kashmir in 1995 effectively. Although he could not secure the release of the hostages, his policies ensured that the terrorists demands were not conceded to, and that the action of the terrorists was condemned internationally, including by Pakistan.
Rao also made diplomatic overtures to Western Europe, the United States, and China. He decided in 1992 to bring into the open India's relations with Israel, which had been kept covertly active for a few years during his tenure as a Foreign Minister, and permitted Israel to open an embassy in New Delhi. He ordered the intelligence community in 1992 to start a systematic drive to draw the international community's attention to alleged Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism against India and not to be discouraged by US efforts to undermine the exercise. Rao launched the Look East foreign policy, which brought India closer to ASEAN. He decided to maintain a distance from the Dalai Lama in order to avoid aggravating Beijing's suspicions and concerns, and made successful overtures to Tehran. The 'cultivate Iran' policy was pushed through vigorously by him. These policies paid rich dividends for India in March 1994, when Benazir Bhutto's efforts to have a resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir failed, with opposition by China and Iran.
Rao's crisis management after the 12 March 1993 Bombay bombings was highly praised. He personally visited Bombay after the blasts and after seeing evidence of Pakistani involvement in the blasts, ordered the intelligence community to invite the intelligence agencies of the US, UK and other West European countries to send their counter-terrorism experts to Bombay to examine the facts for themselves.
Challenges faced in officeEdit
Economic crisis and initiation of liberalisationEdit
Rao decided that India, which in 1991 was on the brink of bankruptcy, would benefit from liberalising its economy. He appointed an economist, Dr. Manmohan Singh, a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, as Finance Minister to accomplish his goals. This liberalization was criticized by many socialist nationalists at that time.
Handling of separatist movementsEdit
Rao has successfully decimated the Punjab separatist movement and neutralised Kashmir separatist movement. It is said that Rao was 'solely responsible' for the decision to hold elections in Punjab, no matter how narrow the electorate base would be. In dealing with Kashmir Rao's government was highly restrained by US government and its president Mr.Clinton. Rao's government introduced the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), India's first anti-terrorism legislation, and directed the Indian Army to eliminate the infiltrators. Despite a heavy and largely successful Army campaign, the state descended into a security nightmare. Tourism and commerce were largely disrupted. Special police units were often accused of committing atrocities against the local population, Rape, kidnapping, torture and detention under false accusations.
Babri Mosque riotsEdit
In the late 1980s, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) brought the Ram Janmabhoomi issue to the centrestage of national politics, and the BJP and VHP began organising larger protests in Ayodhya and around the country
Members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) demolished the Babri Mosque (which was constructed by India's first Mughal emperor, Babar) in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992. The site is the supposed birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama . The destruction of the disputed structure, which was widely reported in the international media, unleashed large scale communal violence, the most extensive since the Partition of India. Hindus and Muslims were indulged in massive rioting across the country, and almost every major city including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bhopal struggled to control the Unrest.
Later Liberhan Commission, after extensive hearing and investigation, exonerated PV Narasimha Rao. It pointed out that Rao was heading a minority government, the Commission accepted the centre’s submission that central forces could neither be deployed by the Union in the totality of facts and circumstances then prevailing, nor could President’s Rule be imposed "on the basis of rumours or media reports". Taking such a step would have created "bad precedent" damaging the federal structure and would have "amounted to interference" in the state administration, it said. The state “deliberately and consciously understated" the risk to the disputed structure and general law and order. It also said that the Governor’s assessment of the situation was either badly flawed or overly optimistic and was thus a major impediment for the central government. The Commission further said, "... knowing fully well that its facetious undertakings before the Supreme Court had bought it sufficient breathing space, it (state government) proceeded with the planning for the destruction of the disputed structure. The Supreme Court’s own observer failed to alert it to the sinister undercurrents. The Governor and its intelligence agencies, charged with acting as the eyes and ears of the central government also failed in their task. Without substantive procedural prerequisites, neither the Supreme Court, nor the Union of India was able to take any meaningful steps."
In yet another discussion with journalist Shekhar Gupta, Rao answered several of the questions on the demolition. He said he was wary of the impact of hundreds of deaths on the nation, and it could have been far worse. And also he had to consider the scenario in which some of the troops might have turned around and joined the mobs instead. Regarding dismissal of Kalyan Singh (government), he said, "mere dismissal does not mean you can take control. It takes a day or so appointing advisers, sending them to Lucknow, taking control of the state. Meanwhile, what had to happen would have happened and there would have been no Kalyan Singh to blame either."
In 1993, a strong earthquake in Latur, Maharashtra killed nearly 10,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. Rao was applauded by many for using modern technology and resources to organise major relief operations to assuage the stricken people, and for schemes of economic reconstruction.
Corruption charges and acquittalEdit
In July 1993, Rao's government was facing a no-confidence motion, because the opposition felt that it did not have sufficient numbers to prove a majority. It was alleged that Rao, through a representative, offered millions of rupees to members of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), and possibly a breakaway faction of the Janata Dal, to vote for him during the confidence motion. Shailendra Mahato, one of those members who had accepted the bribe, turned approver. In 1996, after Rao's term in office had expired, investigations began in earnest in the case. In 2000, after years of legal proceedings, a special court convicted Rao and his colleague, Buta Singh (who is alleged to have escorted the MPs to the Prime Minister). Rao was sentenced to three years in prison for corruption. "I sentence the accused PV Narasimha Rao and Buta Singh to rigorous imprisonment up to three years and a fine of 100,000 rupees ($2,150)," the judge said in his order. Rao appealed to the Delhi High Court and remained free on bail. In 2002, the Delhi High Court overturned lower court's decision mainly due to the doubt in credibility of Mahato's statements (which were extremely inconsistent) and both Rao and Buta Singh were cleared of the charges.
Rao, along with fellow minister K.K. Tewary, Chandraswami and K.N. Aggarwal were accused of forging documents showing that Ajeya Singh had opened a bank account in the First Trust Corporation Bank in St. Kitts and deposited $21 million in it, making his father V. P. Singh its beneficiary. The alleged intent was to tarnish V.P. Singh's image. This supposedly happened in 1989. However only after Rao's term as PM had expired in 1996, was he formally charged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for the crime. Less than a year later the court acquitted him due to lack of evidence linking him with the case.
Lakhubhai Pathak, an Indian businessman living in England alleged that Chandraswami and K.N. Aggarwal alias Mamaji, along with Rao, cheated him out of $100,000. The amount was given for an express promise for allowing supplies of paper pulp in India, and Pathak alleged that he spent an additional $30,000 entertaining Chandraswami and his secretary. Narasimha Rao and Chandraswami were acquitted of the charges in 2003 and before his death, Rao was acquitted of all the cases charged against him,
Later life and financial difficultiesEdit
In the 1996 general elections Rao's Congress Party was badly defeated and he had to step down as Prime Minister. He retained the leadership of the Congress party until late 1996 after which he was replaced by Sitaram Kesri. According to Congress insiders who spoke with the media, Rao had kept an authoritarian stance on both the party and his government, which led to the departure of numerous prominent and ambitious Congress leaders during his reign.
Rao rarely spoke of his personal views and opinions during his 5-year tenure. After his retirement from national politics Rao published a novel called The Insider (ISBN 0-670-87850-2). The book, which follows a man’s rise through the ranks of Indian politics, resembled events from Rao’s own life.
According to a vernacular source, despite holding many lucrative posts he faced many financial troubles. One of his sons was educated with the assistance of his son-in-law. He also faced trouble in paying fees for a daughter of his who was then studying medicine. According to PVRK Prasad, an IAS officer who was Narasimha Rao's media advisor when the latter was Prime Minister, Rao asked his friends to sell away his house at Banajara hills to clear the dues of advocates. Rao was afraid of dying before clearing his dues to the lawyers.
Rao suffered a heart attack on 9 December 2004, and was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences where he died 14 days later at the age of 83. In Delhi, his body was not allowed inside AICC building but was cremated with full state honours in Hyderabad after the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Y.S.Rajashekhar Reddy intervened. His body was kept in state at the Jubilee Hall in Hyderabad. His funeral was attended by the incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda, the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president L.K. Advani, the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and many other dignitaries. Rao was a long-time widower and he is survived by his eight children.
Rao had great interest in Indian literature among 16 languages. He was very fluent in many languages including his mother tongue Telugu, Marathi, Hindi, English, Tamil, French etc. He was able to speak 17 languages. Due to his college education in Fergusson College In Pune, he was very prolific reader and speaker of Marathi. He translated the great Telugu literary work Veyipadagalu of Kavi Samraat Viswanatha Satyanarayana into Hindi as Sahasraphan. He also translated Hari Narayan Apte's Marathi novel 'Pan Lakshat Kon Gheto?'(But who thinks?) into Telugu. He was also invited to be the chief guest of Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Sanmelan where he gave speech in Marathi. In his later life, he wrote his autobiography 'The Insider' which depicts his experiences in politics.
Rao's legacy and the current Congress leadershipEdit
Narasimha Rao changed the name of the Congress Party from Congress (Indira) to Bhartiya Rashtriya Congress (Indian National Congress), a symbolic but significant departure from one person owning up the party and to bring it back to its historic roots.
It has been noted that under the current leadership of Sonia Gandhi the Congress party attempts to undermine Rao's legacy on every occasion by denying him the credit for fostering economic reforms in India. For instance, it is reported that in a speech to mark the 125th anniversary of the Congress, the party president Sonia Gandhi "made it a point to ignore P.V. Narasimha Rao". It is also reported that
"Sonia Gandhi praised contributions of all Congress prime ministers except P V Narasimha Rao in her speech ... Making no mention of Rao in her 15-minute speech, she said Rajiv Gandhi scripted the course of economic policies that were followed by the government (headed by Rao) for the following five years."
Law and order entirely being a state subject, Rao was helpless to do anything other than warn the UP state Govt to maintain status quo on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janma Bhoomi issue. Yet, some commentators argue that while Rao should be blamed for his failure to protect the Babri Masjid, at the same time, he should be given credit for initiating the process of economic reforms in India. In an op-ed article published in Business Standard, A.K. Bhattacharya writes:
"Even today, the Congress leadership shows extreme reluctance to acknowledge the role PV Narasimha 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. The Congress leadership was correct in blaming Narasimha Rao for his political misjudgment on the Ayodhya issue. But it is now time the same leadership also acknowledged Narasimha Rao’s role in ushering in economic reforms."
"Clearly as Prime Minister Rao failed in his duty to protect the disputed structure in Ayodhya ... 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 India's contemporary history ... Manmohan Singh is touted as the father of Indian economic reforms but as Singh has himself acknowledged it was Rao who fathered the process ... Rao deftly navigated the political waters ... and made economic reforms politically tenable. How ironical then that today the same Congress party functionaries ... trying to take credit for India's economic success without acknowledging the role of Rao who envisioned and executed the process?"
"Narasimha Rao may be denied the credit by the present Congress leadership for taking the Indian economy well above the ‘Hindu rate of growth’ of two to three per cent per annum. But they do not let the public forget his greatest defeat, which was his failure to stop the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December, 1992 ... From the point of view of the present Congress leadership, Rao’s problem was not just that he was not a Nehru-Gandhi, it was also that as prime minister he did not genuflect enough to the Nehru-Gandhis ... Now that the Nehru-Gandhis once more control both party and government, P.V. Narasimha Rao has become the great unmentionable within Congress circles. I should modify that statement – Rao can be mentioned only if it is possible to disparage him. Thus his contributions to economic growth and to a more enlightened foreign policy are ignored, while his admittedly pusillanimous attitude towards the kar sevaks in Ayodhya is foregrounded ... To forget his achievements, but to remember his mistakes, is a product of cold and deliberate calculation."
The business economics journalist S A Aiyar, explicitly calls Rao the "unsung hero.". Aiyar writes, 
"Twenty years ago, Narasimha Rao 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 Rao as the man who changed India, and the world too....He was no free market ideologue like Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher: he talked of the middle path. His model was Willy Brandt of Germany....His master stroke was to appoint Manmohan Singh as finance minister. Rao 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...In his first month in office, the rupee was devalued. There followed the virtual abolition of industrial licensing and MRTP clearance. At one stroke, the biggest hurdles to industrial expansion disappeared. Who was the industry minister who initiated these revolutionary reforms? Narasimha Rao himself! He held the industry portfolio too...Yet he did not want 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...Singh initiated the gradual reduction of import duties, income tax and corporate tax. Foreign investment was gradually liberalized. Imports of technology were freed. Yet the overall government approach was anything but radically reformist. When bank staff threatened to go on strike, Rao assured them that there would be no bank privatization or staff reforms. When farmers threatened to take to the streets, Rao assured them there would be no opening up of Indian agriculture...The IMF and World Bank believed that when a country went bust, that was the best time for painful reforms like labour reforms. However, Rao took the very opposite line. He focused on reforms that would produce the least mass losers (such as industrial delicensing) and yet produced 7.5% growth in the mid-1990s. These gave reforms a good name, and ensured their continuance even when Opposition parties later came to power...In the 2000s, the cumulative effect of gradual reform finally made India an 8.5% miracle growth economy. Rao got no glory for this. He had lost the 1996 election amidst charges of buying the support of JMM legislators. This led to his exit as Congress chief. Although he was eventually exonerated by the courts, he died a political nobody."
"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."
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