The other day an edit page article in a leading national daily praised former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao for his good governance and the economic reforms, which have built a new India.The gentleman, who is a professor of economics at Columbia University, in the article, A forgotten revolutionary, even thought of conferring Bharat Ratna on Rao.
But while singing the paeans for Rao, the gentleman has forgotten that Rao's term also saw the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. It was Rao's incompetence to stop the destruction that triggered one of the worst Hindu-Muslim riots in the country since its Independence.
How can a 'good governance' tag be given to a person who being a prime minister remained incommunicado during the six long hours that took for the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
While describing the event, former union minister and his partyman Arjun Singh in his posthumous autobiography — A Grain of Sand in the Hourglass of Time - has written that "after the news of the Babri Masjid demolition came, Rao, then Prime Minister, had locked himself in his room and the scene resembled the infamous spectacle of Nero fiddling while Rome burnt."
Reflecting on his years as the finance minister in Rao's government, Manmohan Singh once told a senior journalist that the liberalisation process initiated in 1991 ground to a halt after "politics took over on December 6, 1992", the day Hindu fanatics demolished the Babri mosque. "After that it was just politics that was on everybody's mind. And an important matter like cutting the fiscal deficit did not receive much importance as it should have been."
Further, giving full credit to Rao for economic reforms is a hype created by a bogey of anti-Nehru-Gandhi family. It was Rajiv Gandhi’s vision of a 21st century India and his imprint on economic policies that were followed by Rao from 1991 to 1996.
Rajiv, who roped in technocrat Sam Pitroda as his technology advisor during his prime ministerial tenure (1984-89) and heralded the telecom revolution in the country, had a bagful of reform initiatives for his second innings. But fate cut the thread of his life and Rao became prime minister. Rao simply implemented the promises the former had made in the 1991 Congress manifesto.
One should also not forgot that the Rao tenure was chequered with his close relationship with Chandra Swami -- who had been exposed as a major international racketeer-- and the stock market's biggest-ever scam architect Harshad Mehta's revelation that he had given a suitcase containing a crore in cash to the Prime Minister.
Rao also did his best to weaken his party by not listening to senior leaders. He was definitely the chief architect of the downfall of the Congress. After the 1996 general elections Rao retained the leadership of the Congress party until late 1996 after which he was replaced by Sitaram Kesri. Many in the Congress felt Rao had kept an authoritarian stance on both the party and his government, which led to the departure of many prominent Congress leaders during his reign. It was only after Sonia Gandhi took the reign of the party, the Congress once again gained grounds.
Many of us have also not forgotten that Rao failed during the 1984 Sikh riots when as home minister he couldn't protect the Sikhs. And to top it all, it is really shameful when one comes to know that Rao as a home minister had no sympathy for the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy. It is alleged that union home secretary R D Pradhan, upon the instructions of Rao, the then union home minister, telephoned the chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh to ensure Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson’s release on bail following his arrest after the tragedy.
Those who praise PV should also remember his blunders.