P.V.Narasimha Rao

  • A Prime Minister who considered a smile an expense, but a Prime Minister who gave 100 crore Indians reasons to smile! If Narasimha Rao had not led the country, the 5% development we see today may have seemed an impossibility. It is not an exaggeration – At the start of 1991, India’s GDP was 1.06%. In 1996, when Narasimha Rao stepped down, India’s GDP was 7.55%
  • If politics is an art, Narasimha Rao was the Picasso of politics. In 1991, no one expected that Narasimha Rao would become the Prime Minister. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the obvious choices of the party were Shankar Dayal Sharma and Arjun Singh. Narasimha Rao was not even a close second. He was not even a main part of propaganda. As per a source, Narasimha Rao was planning to vacate the Lutyens’ Delhi and move back to Andhra Pradesh. But politics is a play spiced up by unexpected twists. That laid a different path for Narasimha Rao’s career. First Shankar Dayal Sharma withdrew from the race for the Prime Minister, then Arjun Singh withdrew too. Sonia Gandhi refused to take the leadership, Pranab Mukherjee was a youngster then. Hence Narasimha Rao was the only eligible candidate for the Prime Minister post. He swore in as the Prime Minister on June 21, 1991. The Narasimha Rao our country saw after that was a movie-worthy transformation.
  • He may not have a handsome physical appearance, but his deeds as a politician made him more than handsome; he was charismatic. In the initial days of his career, he may not have made a big impact as a Chief Minister or as a Central Minister, but the impact he made as a Prime Minister was remarkable. His administration style wasn’t acceptable to all. In fact the hindrances he received from his own party members are more than the hindrances he received from the opposition party. At one point of time, Narasimha Rao grumbled that he was being made a scapegoat by his own party members. Somehow, with his strong will, he completed his term successfully and contested in the election that came up next.
  • Everyone praises Manmohan Singh as a person who changed India’s fate. But Narasimha Rao is the person who changed Manmohan Singh’s fate. In 1991, when Narasimha Rao proposed to make Manmohan Singh the Finance Minister, he faced a lot of opposition within Congress. Especially, Pranab Mukherjee and I G Patel, who were considered the obvious candidates, fought for the post. Later Patel withdrew, but Pranab Mukherjee refused to give in. But Narasimha Rao sternly said, ‘Seeing the condition the country is in, I feel Manmohan Singh is the only person who can push the country forward financially.’ Later, as Manmohan worked his miracle and pushed the nation’s economy on the road to progress, all the voices that rose against Narasimha Rao gradually faded down.
  • Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh collaborated on 4 economic reform projects
  1. Increasing circulation of money
  2. Reformation of Business Policy
  3. Reformation of Industrial Policy
  4. Reformation of Public Sector Enterprises.

To increase circulation of money, the budget was drafted to accommodate a decrease in inflation to control CAD (Current Account Deficit). Next came the reformation of Business Policy. To increase the value of exports, the value of the Indian Rupee was brought down by 20%. To reform the industrial sector, License Raj was abolished, the process to start a business was simplified for 18 departments. To reform Public Sector Enterprises, autonomy was announced for all Public Sector enterprises.

  • Of the 4 economic reforms, the globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation of Indian markets, under Business Policy Reforms, is the most well-known reform. But implementing it was no easy feat. Congress socialists, left-wing and right-wing politicians voiced against this move. This went so bad that they almost went to a point of passing a no-confidence vote in the Parliament. Of the 500 members in the Parliament, there were only 2 people who supported him – Nathuram Mirdha from Rajasthan and Manishankar Iyer. With his determination to do good for the country, he won over those who protested against this move. Once, Jairam Ramesh remarked that Narasimha Rao is like a fish. It is true in a sense – but he is not a fish you would keep in a tank at home; he is the giant fish that knows how to escape out of the net he is tangled in.
  • Narasimha Rao’s most noteworthy act as a Prime Minister would be reclaiming the 47 tonnes of gold we had pawned to international banks. By doing so, he made India hold her head high in the international arena. Around January 1991, India could not import anything. This was because Chandrasekhar’s administration had emptied the treasury entirely. Even SBI, which was the largest Indian bank at that time, could not amass the funds required. To finance this situation, the then Reserve Bank Governor Venkatraman, Finance minister Yashwanth Sinha and Prime Minister Chandrasekhar mortgaged 47 tonnes of gold to international banks. All these happened between February and June, 1991. Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister in June, 1991. In the next month, the 47 tonnes of gold pawned during Chandrasekhar’s administration was transported to the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan. With gold as the leverage, both the banks gave India $400 million. With that money, India could start importing oil and fertilizers. By December 1991, Narasimha Rao efficiently reclaimed the pawned gold and directed it to the Reserve Bank of India.
  • During Narasimha Rao’s tenure as a Prime Minister, the External Affairs policy was solid. He built good relations between our country and other countries like America, Russia, UAE and East Asian countries. He kept discussing with China to solve the border problems. This is why, Shashi Tharoor says we should have given Narasimha Rao a Bharat Ratna for the way he handled External Affairs. He was also adept at taking care of the internal affairs – he handled the opposition parties like an expert. For the Geneva Conference in 1994, he chose Atal Bihari Vajpayee to represent India. Who else could have the magnanimity and open-mindedness to choose a person from the opposition party?
  • It is truly pathetic that such a great leader is not celebrated as much as he should be celebrated. The Congress party considers him a rare gem. Every year, on his death anniversary, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Chief Ministers pay their respects to this great leader. Now, he may not be receiving the recognition he deserves. But surely, the future will speak highly of him, as the person who put India on the road to success.