The reformer Congress chooses to forget

P V Narashimha Rao, in his death, has been shed from the collective memory of the Congress of the loyalists

ajay

Ajay Singh | June 28, 2010



In conventional Indian history, myths often replace facts and form popular perceptions. The obvious reason is that what passed off as history (primarily medieval) was nothing but a concoction of myths and convenient facts by bards and sycophants. However, it seems the  trend continues, if the Congress leadership's attempts to erase the memory of PV Narasimha Rao are any indication. Rao's death anniversary falls today.

Rao was the first Congress prime minister who came from outside the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and served his full term (1991-1996). He was a true liberaliser of the economy who unleashed the country's real potential by doing away with the licence-permit raj. He believed in innovative politics, which, of course, had many dark sides as well.

But Rao was unarguably a prime minister endowed with exceptional abilities. He discovered Manmohan Singh and persuaded him to take up the assignment of the finance minister at a time when the country was at the economic cross-roads because of years of fiscal profligacy by the previous VP Singh and Chandrashekhar regimes. It was a measure of his conviction that Rao almost executed Pokhran-II had it not been for the US government's strong-arm tactics. The Vajpayee government only completed the unfinished agenda of the Rao government.

For five years, Rao ran the government with iron-fist control without even bothering to look at 10 Janpath for concurrence. He enjoyed his autonomy much to the chagrin of Sonia Gandhi and her acolytes. But after his defeat in 1996, Rao was hounded out and ultimately forced to live the life of seclusion in a corner of Delhi by the cronies of 10 Janpath. Every memory of Rao having occupied the AICC chief was obliterated from the Congress headquarters which adorns life-size posters of leaders from the dynasty. In the Congress circles, Rao's sympathisers are frowned upon.

However, the Andhra Pradesh Congress leadership still owes a certain degree of allegiance to the Telegu Bidda (son of the soil) who rose to occupy the country's highest executive chair. Usually, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been regularly paying tribute to his former mentor by visiting the Andhra Bhavan. Perhaps he realises more than anyone else that in the Congress, it has become a practice to perpetuate the memory of the dynasty only. Others can only meet the fate of PV Narasimha Rao.

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