The unforgettable PV Narasimha Rao

Hayaat le ke chalo, kaayenaat le ke chalo; chalo to saare zamaane ko saath le ke chalo.– Makhdoom Mohiuddin

Carry life as you walk, and carry the firmament too; walk so, that the entire world should choose to walk with you.

How does one described former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao?

A writer? Journalist? eminent political leader? A scholar who excelled in many subjects? A fine human being? A visionary? The only prime Minister who served his five-year term despite being from a non-Nehru-Indira family? The answer is he is all rolled into one. More than anything else, PV was a scholar-statesman. A philosopher-King as Plato said and a good leader as proposed by Chanakya. 

One has to recall and remember the services rendered by PV for the nation not because this is his birth centenary year but due to the darkest times that the country is going through now. Now than anytime in the past or in future, PV’s leadership and his governance matter more. This is the right time to recollect how PV as prime Minister pulled the country out of severe financial crisis and lead it to turn around to establish as one of the world’s fast growing economies. This is by any means a miracle and wonder. He was solely responsible for making our country a major IT hub and emerging economic super power from a situation where the country had to pledge its gold to pay the loan interests. 

Not many people have the fortune to get their due recognition in their lifetime or even after it. Despite being the modern architect of economically power full India, PV was ignored during his lifetime for narrow political considerations. Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao should be thanked, congratulated for having decided to organise a year long PV Birth centenary celebrations not only in Telangana State but also all over the world, important cities’ within the country. CM KCR had the understanding, gratitude towards a towering leader like PV, which his own party Congress has terribly lacked.

During his stint as an education minister in the then Andhra Pradesh State, as Chief Minister of AP, as Union Minister for External Affairs, Human Resources Development, as Prime Minister, in whatever capacity he held, he left his stamp and brought innovative policies, measures for the benefit of people in the country. When he was the education Minister in the united AP State, he introduced for the first time in the country Residential Education system for the poor. He replicated this idea in the form of Navodaya Vidyalayas when he was the HRD Minister at the centre and he was one who drafted the new education Policy (NEP) during the Rajiv Gandhi prime ministership.

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Being a Land Lord himself, PV knew the importance of land reforms and on how Land Lords may take undue advantage of the Act and try to safe their land holdings. As the Chief Minister of AP in 1972, he enacted Land Reforms Bill. While introducing the Bill he spoke eloquently about the feudal system and the need to distribute land to the landless poor. He also spoke about the role should be played by the High Court on the matter, Stree Dhanam—Dayabhaga-Mitakshra Nyayam (The Dayabhaga and The Mitakshara are the two schools of law that govern the law of succession of the Hindu Undivided Family under Indian Law. The Dayabhaga School of law is observed in Bengal and Assam. … The Mitakshara School of law is subdivided into the Benares, the Mithila, the Maharashtra and the Dravida schools). He also urged the Members not to delay the passing of the Bill as Act as the delay would help the landlords to transfer their lands on their pet dogs, cats etc.,

He was made Prime Minister due to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. And PV did not miss this opportunity. When he took over as the PM, the country was on the brink of bankruptcy. The condition was so pathetic that the country had to transport by air 47 tonnes of Gold reserves as a pledge to the IMF for a loan.  Nobody, even in their wildest dreams, thought that India would be able to recover!A true statesman to the core and a visionary par excellence, PV made Dr. Manmohan Singh, a renowned economist to be his Finance Minister and asked him to initiate the reforms. PV gave absolute freedom and support to Dr Singh and his team and they were provided a shield from the political interferences. 

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Within a few months, the measures began to bore fruits and the economy started recovering fast. A part of the public sector was privatized, license Raj was abolished leading to entrepreneurship and competition, state control and redtapism was reduced and policies on foreign investments were modified to attract more investments. And soon, India consolidated its position in the world, as the fastest growing economy, Information technology, Pharma, hospitality, Tech Hub. 

PV was known for his flavour for languages and literature. He himself had a command over 13 Indian and European languages. An accomplished writer himself, he wrote his memoirs in a book The Insider. He translated Jnana Peeth ward winner Sri Viswanadha Satyanarayana novel in Telugu Veyipadagalu into Hindi as Sahasraphan. His in-depth knowledge of subjects from Economics, law, history, politics and arts stunned many a personalities world over. He had personal friendship with former UK PM John Major, US President Barack Obama and several former Foreign Ministers, PMs and Presidents.  

PV always exhibited the rare quality of equilibrium despite the nature of the situation. He was unnerved when a Magistrate Court sentenced him for 3 years in the so-called JMM Bribes scandal. When was exonerated in all these cases, PV still maintained his stoic silence. When he was PM he had sent the then leader of the Opposition Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the UN to defend our country on the Kashmir issue. A noble gesture which Vajpayee himself admitted. He remained untouched when he left the PM’s office. Instead of brooding over the issue, he kept himself busy in writing, reading and interacting with the friends. 

While serving the nation as PM, PV used Fiat 118 NE Model car, which is still there at the Ramananda Thirtha Campus in Begumpet. As they say PV was an epitome of simple living and high thinking.

VJM Divakar

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