After days of BJP campaign highlighting the dominance of “one dynasty” in Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday hailed former PM P V Narasimha Rao from Congress on his birth anniversary recalling his “humble background” and as a leader “connected with India’s ethos”.
In a separate Facebook post, Vice President M Venakiah Naidu referred to the measures initiated by Rao to liberalize the economy.
“He sought to dismantle the restrictions imposed under the license raj, reduce red tapism and make Indian industries more competitive”, he recalled paying glowing tributes to the former Prime Minister on the occasion of the commencement of his birth centenary celebrations.
The year-long centenary celebrations begin on Sunday in Hyderabad and will continue till June 28 next year. Rao, who served as Prime Minister between 1991-1996 had a sour relationship with the Nehru-Gandhi family during and after his term causing the latter to face heavy criticism for having ignored the legacy of Rao.
Rao was the third non-Nehru-Gandhi-family Prime Minister after Gulzari Lal Nanda, who was the acting Prime Minister twice for 13 days each and Lal Bahadur Shastri, who remained the PM for one year and 216 days till he breathed his last. Rao completed five years of term. After him, Manmohan Singh from outside the family completed two terms of being PM for five years each.
On Sunday, Congress tweeted “We honour P. V. Narsimha Rao, a visionary leader who oversaw major economic transformations of the Indian economy. His contributions to the nation shall never be forgotten,” a remark which faced scorn on social media.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, tweeted “PV Narasimha Rao was probably one of the first from within to realise the “Dangers” this country had from the “Royal Dynasts” called Gandhis & tried to sideline them from the seat of power. Result: Sonia did not even allow his body to enter Cong headquarters. Then She brought in MMS (Manmohan Singh).
Observing that Rao had laid the foundation for trade liberalization and the re-integration of the Indian economy with the global economy, especially East Asian economies, Vice President Naidu, meanwhile said, “This was a major shift from the inward orientation of the previous regimes to a new trajectory of globally integrated development”.
The Prime Minister recalled Rao as one who led the country through a critical phase.
“This day marks the commencement of the birth centenary year of our former Prime Minister Shri PV Narasimha Rao ji. When we talk about Shri PV Narasimha Rao ji, naturally, his image that emerges before us is that of a political leader, but it is also true that he was a polyglot! He used to speak many Indian and foreign languages. He was rooted in Indian values and had knowledge of western literature and science as well,” Modi said.
While hailing Rao as “one of the most experienced leaders of India”, Modi also highlighted another aspect of his life related to his participation in the freedom movement in his teens.
“And when the Nizam of Hyderabad refused permission to sing Vande Mataram, he took an active part in the movement against the Nizam and at that time, he was only 17 years old,” the Prime Minister said.
“From a young age, Shriman Narasimha Rao was ever onward in raising his voice against injustice. He left no stone unturned to raise his voice. Narasimha Rao ji also understood history very well,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister also recorded Rao’s “rise from a very simple background”, his emphasis on education, his eagerness to learn, and, along with all these qualities, his leadership ability as all memorable.
“I urge you - in the birth centenary year of Narasimha Rao ji, let all of us, try to know as much as possible about his life and thoughts. I once again pay my tributes to him,” he said.
Paying his glowing tributes to Rao, Naidu also recalled the pioneering role played by Rao in initiating economic reforms at a critical juncture when the Indian economy was on the brink of a collapse.
The Vice President said that a huge credit should go to Shri Rao for the growth of India’s GDP in the subsequent years and the emergence of the country as the fastest growing economy in the recent past.
Pointing out that gradually a broad consensus emerged in the country on the need to continue with the reforms, he said the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee accelerated the reforms, while the present Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is implementing the reforms with greater vigour.
Observing that Rao laid a strong foundation for national nuclear security as well, the Vice President said: “among his bold moves in foreign policy were establishing diplomatic relations with Israel and reversing decades of frosty relations between India and the United States by bringing them together”.
The former Prime Minister was also fairly successful in controlling the separatist movements in Punjab and Kashmir, he added.
The Vice President said the launch of the Look East policy and the path-breaking 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments empowering local bodies during Rao’s tenure as the Prime Minister are worthy of mentioning.