Once A Pariah, Former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao Is Now Congress’ Poster-Boy

Narasimha Rao, who had remained missing from the successive Congress narratives since 2004, was duly acknowledged at the 84th Plenary Session of the party in March 2018.


Former prime minister late PV Narasimha Rao, who would have turned 100 on June 28, was not in the good books of the Congress high command while he held the top post and later on. However, the way he has been appreciated and showered with praise over the past year for ushering in economic reforms in 1991 shows that in politics, perceptions about people change and how?

The Congress, which once considered the former prime minister a pariah, had launched Rao’s year-long centenary celebrations last year as flagging his legacy comes with several benefits for the grand old party.

First and foremost, the former prime minister is known for the bold policy decisions he took which helped both the government and the party open up a heavily regulated economy. As a result of the economic liberalization, the fruits of development could reach millions creating a new aspirational class.

Narasimha RAo
Congress pays tribute to former PM on Twitter.


Apart from authoring the reforms, Narasimha Rao, an astute administrator and a wily politician, also gave a free hand to his then finance minister Manmohan Singh and encouraged him to take the liberalization process forward during the early nineties.

Over the past years, the Congress never failed to highlight how the Rao-Singh duo worked in tandem to pull the country out of the economic mess against PM Modi’s alleged unilateral decision making.

The Congress managers also point out that Rao’s legacy continued when Manmohan Singh rose to become the prime minister in 2004 and undertook more reforms, which led to the impressive 8 per cent-plus growth rate during the UPA I years from 2004-2009.

The former prime minister’s contribution further presents the Congress managers with a solid opportunity to label PM Modi’s controversial moves like the 2016 demonetization and later the Goods and Services Tax as faulty and helps the opposition party question the leader’s handling of the economy, which is passing through its worst phase.

PV Narasimha Rao
Image Source: Web


Former finance minister P Chidambaram summed up the situation when he recently said that “the current state of the economy is no doubt largely due to the impact of the pandemic, but it has been compounded by the ineptitude and incompetent economic management of the BJP-led NDA government.”

The fall guy

Narasimha Rao, who became the default Congress choice for the post of the prime minister in 1991 as the party veterans could not agree upon any other name, gradually gained clout in the organization and became the party chief also. He was often termed the Chanakya for heading a minority government for its full term from 1991-1996.

During the years that Rao wore the twin hats of PM and party chief, he could never win the trust of the Gandhis and therefore, of the party leaders.

His role during the fall of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, was seen as doubtful by many in the party. Due to the incident, the Congress’ traditional Muslim voters shifted to the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party and the party was moved to the margins in Uttar Pradesh where it is yet to recover the lost ground.

PV Narasimha Rao
Image Source: Web


Old-timers recall how the former prime minister’s dead body was not allowed to enter the party’s national headquarters in Delhi on December 23, 2004, and the leaders and workers paid their tributes at the entry gate from where the body was flown to Hyderabad for cremation.

In the following decade, when the Congress ruled the country, Rao’s birth or death anniversaries never found a mention in the party’s calendar of important events.

Rao’s Re-discovery

The grand old party began to rethink Narasimha Rao after the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014 and announced a memorial for the former prime minister in Delhi.

Before that in May 2013, the then UPA government had blocked demands for separate memorials, with the Cabinet deciding to set up a common memorial ground – Rashtriya Smriti – in view of the shortage of space in the national capital.

Fearing the BJP was on its way to appropriate the legacy of the former prime minister, just like it had done in the case of Mahatma Gandhi (by launching the Swachh Bharat mission) and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (by celebrating his birth anniversary October 31 as National Unity Day), the Congress officially remembered Rao on his 94th birth anniversary in 2015.

Image source: Web


Rao, who had remained missing from the successive Congress narratives since 2004, was duly acknowledged for ushering in economic reforms in the Political Resolution passed at the 84th Plenary Session of the party in March 2018.

Last year, Sonia, who had a frosty relation with Rao, launched the party’s year-long celebrations to mark his centenary where she hailed the former prime minister as a “bold leader and a dedicated Congressman” while Rahul Gandhi asserted that the leader’s contribution continued to shape modern India.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who had dubbed demonetization as “organised loot and plunder” fondly remembered his ex-boss as a “great son of the soil” and noted that Rao “can truly be called the father of economic reforms in India.”

Interestingly, Rao was the first leader outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to last a full term as prime minister and had earlier brought about radical land reforms in feudal Andhra Pradesh when he was chief minister of the erstwhile state.

Telangana factor

Not only at the national level, praising the former prime minister also brings benefits for the grand old party in Telangana as Rao belonged to Karimnagar in the southern state. The Congress had agreed to the local demand to carve out a separate Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh in 2014 but did not reap any electoral dividends there.

The same year, the Telugu Desam Party government in Andhra Pradesh had moved a resolution urging the Centre to build a memorial for Rao. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi government in Telangana too had made arrangements to claim the legacy of Rao and even demanded a Bharat Ratna for the former prime minister.

The efforts of the rivals had forced then Telangana Congress chief Uttam Reddy to organise a ceremony at Rao’s final resting place in the capital Hyderabad.

Dear Readers,
As an independent media platform, we do not take advertisements from governments and corporate houses. It is you, our readers, who have supported us on our journey to do honest and unbiased journalism. Please contribute, so that we can continue to do the same in future.

Related posts