PV Narasimha Rao: Quintessential Congressman
PV Narasimha Rao: Quintessential Congressman
Contrary to speculations running rife, amid efforts to appropriate the legacy of former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, questions are raised about his roots in the Congress. Narasimha Rao is quintessential Congressman.
Narasimha Rao is one of those rare breed of politicians, who remained loyal to the party that also gave him so much and never thought of even distancing himself from the party, not to speak of even thinking of leaving the Congress. Ideologically, Narasimha Rao remained wedded to the Congress and there is no way he could even thinking of parting with the party.
Since his youth, Narasimha Rao has been associated with the Hyderabad State Congress headed by Swami Ramananda Tirth and he remained a lifelong disciple of the Swamiji, who was a Leftist at heart. Like Swami Ramanand Tirth, P V Narasimha Rao, deeply religious at heart, has also remained committed lifelong to the ideals of Socialism and Secularism, the core ideology of the Congress. This is what makes Narasimha Rao a quintessential Congressman.
Following the merger of the erstwhile Hyderabad State, which was under the Nizam's rule, in the Indian Union after the Police Action from September 13-17, 1948, P V Narasimha Rao remained part and parcel of the Congress. He never for once even deviated either from the party organization or the party ideology.
The Congress equally honoured Narasimha Rao for his various political and administrative skills at the various levels. From 1957 to 1977, he has been MLA in the Undivided Andhra Pradesh. From 1962, he has served State Minister, holding various portfolios like even Fisheries, Education, Endowments and Health.
In 1971, he was elevated as the first Telangana Chief Minister of the Undivided Andhra Pradesh, a post he held with distinction till 1973. During this short tenure, he brought about educational reforms like starting the Gurukul residential schools in the State that produced some of the outstanding students.
Besides, his Land Reforms are considered revolutionary. A Zamindar, himself, he not only introduced small agricultural landholdings, which boosted agriculture in the State, but himself gave away around 800 acres of surplus land to the Government for redistribution among the rural landless poor.
The small agricultural landholdings assumes significance even in the present times, when owing to spiralling population, there is a need to further increase agricultural production, which was not possible in the times of the absentee-landlordism.
Later, Narasimha Rao was elevated as All-India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary. Staying with Indira Gandhi during the Congress split in 1978, Narasimha Rao emerged as her close political aide and adviser and all along, Indira Gandhi respected him, as such.
Elected to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in May, 1977, he remained in the top echelons of the party all through. After the split in the Congress in 1978, Indira Gandhi nominated Narasimha Rao to the highest decision-making body of the party, the Congress Parliamentary Board (CPB).
When Indira Gandhi returned to power at the Centre after the snap elections in 1980, she entrusted him, by turns, some of the plum portfolios like External Affairs Minister and Union Home Minister.
Following the tragic assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded her as the Prime Minister, entrusted his pet project to Narasimha Rao. That was to script the New Education Policy.
With Rajiv Gandhi's insistence on computerisation, Narasimha Rao, himself mastered the use of computers and worked on computers lifelong. It was at the instance of Narasimha Rao that Rajiv Gandhi rechristened the Education Ministry as the Ministry of Human Resource Development and entrusted it to him.
In the General Election in 1991, Narasimha Rao was responsible for the preparation of the Congress Election Manifesto. It was an elaborate blueprint that was set out for implementation by the new Government.
Unfortunately, in the middle of the election campaign, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated at an election rally in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991. On May 22, the Congress Working Committee, presided over by P V Narasimha Rao, elected Sonia Gandhi as the Congress President.
But she declined the post. On May 28, 1991, the CWC met again, this time presided over by H K L Bhagat, which elected Narasimha Rao as the Congress President, who led the Congress in the remaining phases of the parliamentary elections.
Sonia Gandhi supported both in Narasimha Rao becoming the Congress President on May 28, 1991, and Prime Minister on June 21, 1991. Emerging as the single-largest party, Narasimha Rao was elected leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) by virtue of which he became the Prime Minister of India.
On August 20, 1994, which marked the Golden Jubilee of Rajiv Gandhi Birth Anniversary, a one-day Special AICC Session was convened at the Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi. Sonia Gandhi, who was not part of the Congress then, was specially invited and seated in a Special Gallery. Later at the Congress President's Camp at the AICC Session venue, he invited Sonia Gandhi for high tea.
In the AICC Session itself, Narasimha Rao described himself as a legatee of late Rajiv Gandhi. Such was his attachment and bonding with the Congress. In fact, though he was equally close to Indira Gandhi, Narasimha Rao was far closer with Rajiv Gandhi, given their rapport.
After Narasimha Rao demitted office as Prime Minister, he was chargesheeted in the Lakhubhai Pathak cheating case. Sonia Gandhi was the first arrive at the 9, Motilal Nehru residence of Narasimha Rao, to express her solidarity with him in what was obviously seen as a politically-motivated case.
Similarly, after Sonia Gandhi won the election as Congress President in 2000, defeating Jitendra Prasada, the AICC Plenary was held in Bengaluru in March, 2001. At the AICC Plenary, P V Narasimha Rao was seated by the side of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, when she was constantly seen talking and consulting him.
At the end of the day's proceedings, when both Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Narasimha Rao emerged together, Sonia Gandhi convoy came in first. She instructed them to remove it and first bring the convoy of former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao. After seeing him off, she left the AICC venue. That was the courtesy and regard Sonia Gandhi showed to Narasimha Rao not just then and there, but always.
(The author is Ex- MLC and Secretary, AICC)