PV Narasimha Rao a ‘modern-day Chanakya’

PV Narsimha Rao
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Today we remember one of the most intellectual leaders of India, PV Narasimha Rao on his birth anniversary. Born on June 28, 1921, near Karimnagar, in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao served as the prime minister of India between 1991 and 1996. He is infamous for reviving the Indian Economy in his tenure with Dr. Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister.

He went to Pune’s Fergusson College. He then attended the Universities of Bombay and Nagpur, from where he received a degree in law. He is also known as a distinguished scholar who was fluent in many languages. He set his foot into politics as an activist to fight for independence from Britain.  Before becoming India’s prime minister, Rao represented Andhra Pradesh in the Lok Sabha. He was also the foreign minister.

His Legacy

  • Many in politics and the media call P.V. Narasimha Rao a ‘modern-day Chanakya’.
  • After Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991, the Congress (I) Party picked Rao as its chief and he then assumed charge as the prime minister. Rao was aware that he was not a popular choice for the prime minister’s post. The seasoned politician knew that he was an accidental prime minister. Even as he headed a minority government, he had to deal with persistent dissension from within the party.
  • Rao’s boldest move was to bring in the politically naive Manmohan Singh as his finance minister. Leaving the economy in his hands but solidly backing him, Rao focused on global and domestic politics.
  • BJP started the Hindu politics which was a threat to his governance. In response he, Rao pricked the Mandal sails by implementing backward caste reservation in government jobs. In effect, he let the rightists and the leftists fight it out, as he kept aloof while also buying up MPs to cobble together a majority that was required for stable governance.
  • Meanwhile, Pakistan was inserting the militants in the Kashmir valley with dollar-bought arms. Rao sent the Indian Army to fight them, but he soon found that fighting a counter-insurgency war wasn’t easy. The Army needed more battalions to fight it than in a conventional war. That was the time when Rao looked at the Chinese frontier.
  • With China solely focusing on domestic politics and development with peace after the decline of the Soviet Union. Rao seized the moment to hammer out a peace and tranquility deal with China by which both countries agreed not to build up on the border or seek to tactically alter even a few square inches of land-holding, so to speak. He could not end insurgency in Kashmir, but his action did break the back of militancy.
  • From helping Russia and developing good international relations to mastering the national politics by not getting affected by the rightists and leftists, Rao’s deft management enabled him to stabilise India’s chaotic politics. Rao also maintained good ties with the western world, especially with Germany which was emerging as the engine of Europe’s growth in the post-cold war world.
  • He sought to reduce government control, restricting subsidies and privatising several public industries. The reforms heralded with the future prime minister, Manmohan Singh as Rao’s finance minister came to be known as liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation.
  • Narasimha Rao was the first PM of India to lead a minority government for a full term.

His Excellence

 Beyond the identity of a lawyer-turned-politician, however, Rao also left behind the unmatchable legacy of a scholar and linguist. What perhaps powered Rao all through was his undying curiosity and willingness to learn new things.

He was deeply interested in Indian philosophy and culture, and wrote poetry, fiction and political commentary. He has also published Sahasra Phan, a Hindi translation of Viswanatha Satyanarayana’s famous Telugu novel Veyi Padagalu and published many articles in different magazines, mostly under a pen name. He also published a ‘semi-autobiographical’ novel The Insider, whichkicked up a storm in political circles.

Rao, the voracious reader, also left behind a library with his collection of over 10,000 books in multiple languages, many of them rare editions. The library was set up by Rao at the Swami Ramananda Tirtha Trust in Begumpet in Andhra Pradesh.

Written by Ayushman Ojha, a Journalism student at Delhi School of Journalism, Delhi University. Covers Politics, Education and International Affairs.

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