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HashtagPolitics | Birthday greetings show the happy long life of Narasimha Rao’s legacy

On June 28, marking his 101st birthday, all parties offered tributes to India's 10th Prime Minister, who largely after his death has come to be celebrated as the man who ushered the country into economic revolution via liberalisation.

Written by Vidhatri Rao | New Delhi |
Updated: June 30, 2022 9:10:22 am
In a tweet, PM Narendra Modi said: “India is grateful to him (Rao) for his rich contribution to national progress. He also made a mark as a great scholar and intellectual.” (Express archives)

The wily politician that he was, celebrated as the Chanakya of his times, P V Narasimha Rao would perhaps enjoy the buzz around his birth anniversary, that has been growing every passing year, for reasons that would probably delight his heart.

On June 28, marking his 101st birthday, all parties offered tributes to India’s 10th Prime Minister, who largely after his death has come to be celebrated as the man who ushered the country into economic revolution via liberalisation. Often accused of playing down Rao’s legacy, after the leader who had been a surprise choice after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination reportedly fell foul of the Gandhi family, the Congress also offered tributes to him. Telangana, the state Rao belonged to, went one step further, with the leaders of the BJP and Congress involved in a war of words over the former PM.

In a tweet, PM Narendra Modi said: “India is grateful to him (Rao) for his rich contribution to national progress. He also made a mark as a great scholar and intellectual.”

Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu called Rao “a visionary statesman and a towering intellectual” and referred to his “multifaceted personality” as “a polyglot, scholar and writer of repute”.

In his tribute to Rao, Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri underlined his non-Gandhi family credentials, tweeting: “A learned, popular & tall stalwart, he was respected across party lines & was the first Congress PM from outside the dynasty to complete a successful five year term in office”.

P C Mohan, the BJP MP from Bengaluru Central, referred to the Congress’s uneasy relationship with Rao. Calling the 1991 reforms “monumental”, that “steered Indian out of the economic abyss”, Mohan tweeted: “Congress never recognized his efforts. He was completely forgotten after his death in 2004… The former PM’s birth anniversary should be an occasion to reflect on Congress’ blind supplication to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.”

While sharing a piece he wrote for Open Magazine on Rao, Thiruvananthapuram Congress MP Shashi Tharoor acknowledged he had been under-appeciated. In the tweet posting the article, he said: “ ‘Change is the only constant’ : Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s catchphrase as he ushered in dramatic changes in India’s foreign policy in the guise of continuity. A reassessment of an under-appreciated PM’s global legacy in his centenary year.”

The official account of the Congress was among the ones to greet the former PM, posting: “On his birth anniversary, we honour the former Prime Minister of India, P. V. Narasimha Rao. He is credited with doing away with the Licence Raj in India, and ushered the country into an era of economic reforms. His contributions to the nation shall always be remembered.”

Mangampati Pallam Raju, ex- Congress MP from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, called Rao “the political architect of India’s economic reforms”, and said his “jugalbandi” with Manmohan Singh, his finance minister at the time, “transformed India”.

In Telangana, the tribute and counter-tribute involved, among others, state Congress head Revanth Reddy and BJP leaders such as Union Minister of State Kishan Reddy, who both visited P V Ghat in Hyderabad, named after the former PM.

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Ex-MP Konda Vishweshwar Reddy of the Congress, who was in the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) earlier, said in a June 29 tweet that the latter had no right to claim Rao. “During Telangana agitation KCRao (KCR) & son (KTR) said ‘What did he (Rao) do for Telangana & Karimnagar being a PM’. Now using him for political mileage.”

State BJP leader and Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay, in his remarks to the media, also accused the TRS government of using Rao for “political gains” and asked why the CM had not bothered to pay a visit to the P V Ghat. “He (KCR) even promised Rs 100 crore for PV Ghat but nothing has been done… Not just that, KCR even forgot about the development of PV’s birthplace Vangara and construction of a memorial,” he added.

In his tribute, CM K Chandrasekhar Rao hinted at his own ambitions on the national front, with his speech shared by the official Twitter account of the Telangana CM’s office. KCR hailed Rao as “Son of the Soil”, called him “the architect of Modern India who saved India from economic crisis by introducing pathbreaking reforms”, and said: “PV Narasimha Rao has proven that the vision of Telangana leadership can show new direction to the nation.” He added that “Telangana will march ahead taking inspiration” from the former PM.

The BJP has long been trying to use the Congress “treatment” of Rao to attack the party as it tries to get a foothold in Telangana. In September 2018, during a speech in Mahabubnagar, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said: “Rahul baba (Rahul Gandhi) dreams that Congress govt will be formed here in Telangana. The people of Telangana have not forgotten how P V Narasimha Rao was insulted.”

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Later the same year, during a speech in Siddipet district in November, Shah said: “Now Rahul Gandhiji is saying everyone should live with love. I want to ask him, when the son of Telangana and our former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao had died, (why) no ‘salami’ was given to his mortal remains and why were they sent to Hyderabad.”

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Following Rao’s death, his body was not placed at the Congress headquarters in Delhi, to allow people to pay their respects.

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First published on: 29-06-2022 at 04:29:51 pm

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