Sunday, June 23, 2024

P. V. Narasimha Rao,  a truly versatile statesman

Book review

“One of the significant aspects of the reforms we (Prime Minister  PV Narasimha Rao and Finance Minister Manmohan Singh in 1991) initiated was the unique nature of the Indian experience. Narasimha Rao affirmed that reforms in India would have to be mindful of Indian concerns and interests of our working people must be protected,” said Dr. Manmohan Singh in his message on the occasion of publication of “PV Narasimha Rao, a versatile statesman.” The book, compiled and edited by Prof. Prasanna Kumar and C Narendra Reddy, was published by Alakananda Prachuranalu in October 2022.

PVNR used to say that the reforms should have human face. In his last days he lamented that the human facing was missing. Dr. Manmohan Singh said the economic reforms did not happen suddenly. The first political leader to grasp the importance of re-orienting our economic policies was Indira Gandhi herself. Her steps were taken forward by Rajiv Gandhi who grasped the importance of the Economic Reforms. Chandrasekhar, who succeeded VP Singh as Prime Minister, also was thinking on the same lines. But he did not have time. Ultimately it was PVNR who dragged the unwilling Congress party into approving the reforms albeit reluctantly. His enormous political skills helped him to accomplish the  rarest of rare feat.

Prof. Prasanna Kumar said in his preface, “The Contribution of Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh will be written in letters of gold in the history of Indian democracy and remembered with admiration and gratitude by posterity….PV Narasimha Rao’s emergence as a scholar among statesmen and a statesman among scholars, was inarguably a part of what Jawaharlal Nehru famously called India’s ‘Tryst with Destiny,’ the best thing that happened in that hour of gloom and despair.”

The book was dedicated to Prof. G. Ram Reddy, former Chairman of University Grants Commission and Indian Council for Social Science Research who inspired the publication of the book. What former Governor of Reserve Bank of India and also united Andhra Pradesh Dr. C. Rangarajan said how PV Narasimha Rao and Dr. Manmohan Singh dismantled the licence-control raj was given on a separate page. “While Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh spearheaded the new policy articulating the need for change and providing not only the broad framework but also the details of the reforms, PV Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister gave the valuable political support and shield which were very much needed. It must be noted that as Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao also held the portfolio of industry which was directly responsible for initiating the changes that led to the dismantling of various types of controls and licences related to the industrial sector. This was indeed a key element for the reform programme,” wrote Dr Rangarajan.

C. Narendra Reddy in his introduction called PVNR a sober statesman. Giving the background, Reddy said, “India passed through a period of grave political and social turbulence during the seven years from 1984 to 1991 marked by the assassination of two Prime Ministers belonging to the Congress Party and brief flirtation with power by unstable opposition alliances at the Centre. Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 30 October 1984 by Sikh fundamentalists. Her son Rajiv Gandhi who, succeeded her as Prime Minister and subsequently leader of the opposition in Parliament, fell to suicide squad belonging to a Sri Lankan Tamil separatist group at a public meeting near Madras on 21 May 1991 in the midst of a general election campaign.”

The book is a compilation of articles written by a few  established intellectuals who knew PVNR intimately.  Part -1 consists of four chapters on Andhra Pradesh-A Backgroud,  Early Life, Politics in Andhra Pradesh and PV as Chief Minister. All the four chapters were written by Prof. A. Prasanna Kumar. He also wrote one more chapter in Part –II titled PV Narasimha Rao – The Skillful Statesman.  Part – II comprises 16 chapters. C Narendra Reddy, who worked as political editor of Economic Times, wrote on Structure of Indian politics, In The Leadership Role, The Dynamic Consensus, The Economic Restructuring, The Ayodhya Episode, A Man And His Ideas and PV Narasimha Rao’s proposed Electoral Reforms Remain untouched.  M. Venugopal Rao wrote on Foreign Policy Perspectives, Ananda Sarup on Shaping The Education Policy, P. Venkateswar Rao on Literacy And Other Pursuits, the redoubtable K. Natwar Singh wrote the inside story of How PV Became Prime  Minister. While Defence Analyst C Uday Bhaskar penned  The PVNR Leagcy: Dr. Manmohan Singh’s Sanyasi Mentor, The Man Who Saved India Dr. RV Vaidyanatha Ayyar wrote The P.V. I Knew. Shivshankar Menon, former foreign secretary, wrote on ‘India and Asian Geopolitics-The Past, Present’. PV upheld values said his former Information Advisor PVRK Prasad. The Epilogue was penned by C. Narendra Reddy. Lacking the charisma of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, PVNR tried to run the government through consensus. “His period has seen two developments – the increasing role of the democratic institutions and the diminishing role of the state,” he said. Unfortunately the reverse has been happening in India for some years.

Referring to the present conflict over communalism, he expressed optimism saying he has three solid reasons for it. “As regards  the basic confrontation within the society generated by the type of Hindu fundamentalism being preached by the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) pariwar, it would soon be realized that the springs of Indian thought, religion and culture from which they draw inspiration are essentially secular in content. Secondly, the need to protect the basic interests of India internationally will prevail on the political leadership of all parties to take a secular line. Thirdly, the example of advanced countries where economic prosperity is associated with secular trends in society is bound to influence the Indian mind. This is going to be a strong factor as it can be seen from the American experience where the establishment of a mature cultural democracy was largely due to the example set by the most prosperous states that religious toleration was closely connected with commercial prosperity,” Dr. Reddy said. His conclusion  is somewhat reassuring.

The book is a must read for all those who are interested in contemporary politics and history of India. It is particularly informative for those who are keen to know the statesmanship of PVNR and his scholarly disposition besides his in depth understanding of Indian ethos. Giridhar’s cover is very good depicting a cheerful PVNR for a change. The book is available with the publisher Alakananda Prachuranalu (publishing wing of Ashok Book Centre), at Kanchukota Street, opposite Maris Stella College, Vijaywada-520 008. It is also available with Centre for Policy Studies, Dwarakamayi, T.P.T. Colony, Seethammadhara, Visakhapatnam – 530 013. One can contact mobile number 9848191722 for further information.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor


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