With the current slide in the economy prompting questions on his legacy as the architect of economic reforms in India,Manmohan Singh,in his tenth and possibly the last Independence Day speech as Prime Minister,today invoked the late P V Narasimha Rao to explain the political push that was needed for reforms he kickstarted as Finance Minister in the Rao Cabinet.
It was the first time that he mentioned Raos name from the ramparts of the Red Fort even though his party hasnt exactly been enthusiastic about the contribution of the second Prime Minister of the Congress from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family. Incidentally,even while recounting the major changes in the country every ten years,Singh cited the contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru,Indira Gandhi,Rajiv Gandhi and Rao skipping any mention of Lal Bahadur Shastri.
In the year 1991,under the leadership of Shri Narasimha Rao,we successfully negotiated a major economic crisis and embraced reforms for strengthening our economy. These reforms were opposed by many political parties at that time. But the reforms were in national interest and were therefore continued by all governments that came to power subsequently. Since then,the reform process has continually moved forward, Singh said in his speech today.
His reference to Rao assumes significance given the way Singh finds his reforms initiatives stalled. In the 1,304 speeches that Singh has made since he took charge as Prime Minister,he has mentioned Rao whom he calls his friend,philosopher and guide only seven times.
His remarks today come a fortnight after he had said that reforms dont happen just because there is a professional consensus. They happen when the political leadership of the time decides to back these initiatives, he had said at the release of the book,An Agenda for Indias Growth: Essays in Honour of P Chidambaram.
Stating how Raos leadership and support for reforms was crucial in 1990s,the PM had said,In a democracy,reform be it of economic policy or of institutions is essentially a political process…Having a parliamentary majority alone is not enough,because there are differences within parties.
In his speech today,Singh said that in no other decade had Indias economic development increased as much as in the last one. Saying that the current slowdown will not last long,he said that thanks to measures taken by the UPA,in the coming months,we will see visible results of these efforts in terms of investment and employment opportunities.
If in the future we can achieve the same kind of progress as in the last decade,the day is not far off when India will be rid of poverty,hunger,disease and ignorance….We will also need to build an environment of political stability,social cohesion and security for this to happen, he said.
In what was construed as a veiled riposte to PM aspirant Narendra Modi,Manmohan Singh said,There can be no place for narrow and sectarian ideologies in a modern,progressive and secular country. Such ideologies divide out society and weaken our democracy. We should prevent them from growing. We need to strengthen those traditions of our country which teach us to promote tolerance and respect for thought processes different from ours.
Referring to the dastardly attack on our jawans on the LoC with Pakistan,he said that the government will take all possible steps to prevent such incidents in future. For relations with Pakistan to improve,it is essential that they prevent the use of their territory and territory under their control for any anti-India activity, he said.
Number of times
In PMs 1304 speeches,
the number of times these leaders find mention:
Jawaharlal Nehru 204
Lal Bahadur Shastri 9
Indira Gandhi 85
Rajiv Gandhi 115
P V Narasimha Rao 7
Sonia Gandhi 67
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