Exploring layers of truth in Rao’s role in history
Check out Ashok Mitra's well-written piece in the Telegraph. Two quotes:
"P.V. Narasimha Rao’s government was formally responsible for the cataclysmic cross-over. But render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Praise Narasimha Rao for being the obedient servant of the emerging situation, but accord due credit to Rajiv Gandhi, if the latter did not fritter away the country’s exchange reserves in the manner he did and alongside incur huge short-term foreign debt, globalization and liberalization would have still remained an unfinished agenda — at least for some more while. Rajiv Gandhi dared to be irresponsible; Narasimha Rao merely reaped the harvest of that irresponsibility."
"Does that mean poor Rao had no outstanding achievement he could claim as very much his own? It may sound harsh, but there is one happening history will exclusively credit him for: he was the prime minister who slept through, peacefully, the entire afternoon even as the Babri Masjid was being demolished on December 6, 1992."
History may forgive Narasimha Rao's failings, if history forgives everybody regardless of the crimes committed! Chances are that Rao's legacy will be remembered as one of ruthlessness (St Kitts & Jain Hawala, for instance) and indecisions (anti-Sikh pogrom & the 6th December). I fail to see why everybody assumes LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation, and Globalisation) is something that has benefitted India. I would think that an average Indian doesn't like the taste of reforms; all the pro-reform govts were always voted out in India. Rao's own state of Andhra Pradesh is one of the worst casualties of the economic reforms. It's funny that an Indian politician speaks about honor in the comity of nations. Less than 25 kms from Hyderabad - the hitec city, children still die of simple cases of diarrhea due to lack of primary health care! That doesn't bring any dishonor?
Of course he was erudite and all that, but I wonder whether it's erudition or people's support that's more important for a political leader. The erudite Rao clinged to prime minister's chair by bribing members of parliament. Sonia Gandhi, who gets ridiculed for her fake degrees, knew a better way to get into history books.
One positive thing that I can think of Rao's prime ministership is that he showed an enormous respect for parliamentary proceedings as PM. He was always present in the parliament, willing to participate in debates, sometimes even answering questions which otherwise a junior minister would have answered. Contrast that with Rajiv Gandhi's contempt for parliamentary affairs, and the mess that Vajpayee and Advani create in the parliament today.