The Economist says: ‘Raise him up’

  • Rehabilitating a great Indian leader

New Delhi: The Economist, a prestigious newspaper, has published a review of Vinay Sitapati’s book ‘Half-Lion: How P.V. Narasimha Rao Transformed India’. The review started with a comment on the state of affairs in India when its tenth prime minister, PV Narasimha Rao, took over the reins. It said, ‘ Rao inherited a country on the point of collapse. In the run up to the election in 1991 separatists were on the rampage n Kashmir and Punjab, the treasury was running out of foreign reserves and 800 people were killed across the country. Then Rajiv Gandhi was blown up by Tamil Tiger suicide-bomber as he campaigned in South India. Rao, a reticent scholar with government experience but little popular support, was his improbable successor.’

The review quoted the author who said that PV was the most consequential Indian leader since Nehru. It recalled that Rao’s minority government was subjected to a number of no-confidence motions in Parliament. Sitapati had revealed in his well written book that PV survived and pushed through his reforms in part by deploying India’s intelligence agencies to dig up the dirt on recalcitrant MPs, The Economist noted. It said author Sitapati mounted a heroic defence of his subject on the charges that Rao allowed the demolition of Babri mosque deliberately.

The reviewer commented, ‘ Rao had committed the sin of being insufficiently deferential to the Gandhi dynasty wile in power. He spent his final years as a pariah. His name was scrubbed from the Congress party’s lore, and credit for his achievements was given to Manmohan Singh and Rajiv Gandhi. But Mr Sitapati makes an unanswerable case for Rao as the father of India’s economic reforms’.

The review ends with the remark: ‘Mr Sitapati has resurrected his subject from the ignominy and obscurity to which he had long been condemned by his party’s petty proprietors. Rao deserves a place alongside Nehru as India’s most important prime minister’.

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